Vermont Business Leaders Plan to Establish a Bank | Off Message

Vermont Business Leaders Plan to Establish a Bank


  • Francisco Javier Zea Lara | Dreamstime
Hula founder Russ Scully, landlord Bill Bissonette, the three sons of IDX Systems cofounder Richard Tarrant Sr. and a constellation of other Chittenden County business luminaries have teamed up to open the first new Vermont-based bank since 1989.

Eight proposed directors and 11 organizers have applied to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, or FDIC, to open the Bank of Burlington, a business-only lender.

The group intends to raise $20 million to $30 million before it gets started, said Mike Pieciak, the commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation.
A local lender is likely to be more flexible in approving business loans, Pieciak said. The proposal comes as financial institutions in Vermont are being sold and merging.

“This is like sailing against the wind,” he remarked.

None of the bank’s founders or future directors could be reached on Tuesday. The proposed directors include Bissonette, who owns the iconic Al’s French Frys; Kristin Blazewicz, the chief legal officer of the Coty cosmetics company; lawyer Pietro Lynn; and Judith O’Connell and Eric Ode of Champlain Investment Partners. MyWebGrocer cofounder Jerry Tarrant and Bruce Lisman, former global equities chair at JPMorgan Chase, are on the partners list.

The CEO is Geoffrey Hesslink, the former president at Merchants Bank, which was acquired by Community Bank in 2017.

Scully, who developed the Hula coworker space on the Lake Champlain waterfront, is one of the organizers. Others include Scott Ireland, president and CEO of the S.D. Ireland construction company, lawyer Tom Moody, entrepreneur Brian Tarrant and former MyWebGrocer CEO Richard Tarrant Jr.

If approved, the Bank of Burlington would be the only Vermont-based bank that offers only business lending. And it would be the first new state-chartered bank since the Bank of Woodstock — now part of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust — opened in 1989.

The bank applied for a state charter last November; Pieciak said he planned to sign off on Wednesday on an initial approval. He said it’s difficult to predict how long it would take for the Bank of Burlington to receive final approval from the feds.

“We’ve already done a lot of the due diligence over the last five or six months,” Pieciak said. “It really is a matter of how quickly they will raise the funds, which I don’t think will take them long.”

Corrections, March 16, 2022: A previous version of this story contained incorrect titles for Geoffrey Hesslink and Kristin Blazewicz.