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Dime solidifies metro footprint after merger, layoffs; eyes growth

Kevin O'Connor, CEO of Dime Community Bancshares, said

Kevin O'Connor, CEO of Dime Community Bancshares, said branches of the combined bank are "fully" open and customers no longer need to make appointments in advance. Credit: Heather Walsh

Dime Community Bancshares, Inc., after a $489 million merger with Bridge Bancorp, is setting its sights on deepening a footprint that now stretches from Montauk to Manhattan, the company's chief executive said.

Kevin O'Connor, CEO of the Hauppauge-based combined company, said that of its 66-branch network only facilities in Melville and Merrick will be closed.

Ninety-two employees were laid off effective Jan. 29 and the merger officially closed three days later. O'Connor, who had been president and CEO of Bridge Bancorp, said about two-thirds of those laid off were employees of the pre-merger Dime.

The combined company's workforce is about 900, he said.

Kenneth Mahon, who was CEO of Dime, became executive chairman of the post-merger company.

The merged company trades under the Dime ticker symbol, DCOM, on the Nasdaq. On Monday, shares closed up 0.4% to $25.96.

Bridge, whose headquarters were in Bridgehampton, had 38 branches in Nassau, Suffolk, Queens and Manhattan, but no representation in Brooklyn, where Dime had its headquarters. Bridge is the parent of BNB Bank.

"For us, this is a chance to build out our Nassau County franchise and give us depth in Brooklyn and Queens," O'Connor said.

The deal was announced in July, but O'Connor said the first discussions came in mid-March, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uncertainty surrounding the outbreak prompted the companies to break off negotiations.

"The risks were too great," he said, but talks were revived in mid-June.

Discussions to allow some branches in eastern Long Island to operate temporarily under the BNB Bank brand were scrapped and all branches will take the Dime name and adopt the new Dime logo, O'Connor said.

Both companies have lengthy histories in the region. Bridge was founded in 1910, while Dime began operating in 1864.

Despite the ongoing pandemic threat, O'Connor said branches of the combined bank are "fully" open and customers no longer need to make appointments in advance.

O'Connor, a veteran banking executive who worked at Long Island's North Fork Bank, acquired by Capital One, did not rule out further acquisitions.

"It's a good way to supplement organic growth," he said.

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