Joyce’s climb to Chelsea Groton Bank’s top spot no accident
Norwich ― Anthony “Tony” Joyce fell into banking some 40 years ago.
He is, he said, “an accidental banker.”
And a successful one, too, as evidenced by his rise to the top spot at Chelsea Groton Bank, where he took over Jan. 1 as president and chief executive officer, succeeding Michael Rauh, who retired after 12 years at the bank’s helm.
Fresh out of the UConn School of Business in 1983, Joyce wasn’t quite sure what path to follow. With many of his peers eyeing the insurance industry, a family friend steered him toward banking and a job with the Norwich Savings Society, now People’s United Bank.
It was fortuitous direction.
Dan Dennis, then the Norwich Savings Society president and chief executive officer, became a mentor, strongly encouraging Joyce to take a course in commercial lending.
“I fell in love with commercial lending,” Joyce said during an interview at Chelsea Groton’s Norwich branch, which is serving as the bank’s headquarters while its building on Poquonnock Road in Groton undergoes a makeover.
“It gives you an opportunity to use your analytical skills, your education, plus your interpersonal skills” Joyce said. “In the morning, you might be talking to a mortician, then a developer in the afternoon and a car dealer at night. When a customer has an idea and you help them achieve it, you feel like you a hand in getting something built.”
“It’s the best job in the world,” he said.
A lover of the outdoors and an avid fly fisherman, Joyce said if he hadn’t fallen into banking he’d probably be a conservation officer.
Joyce, 61, spent 21 years with Norwich Savings Society/People’s, then six years at Eastern Connecticut Savings Bank and three at Dime Savings Bank before joining Chelsea Groton in 2013.
“Tony and I first met 11 or 12 years ago when we both were on the NCDC (Norwich Community Development Corp.) board,” Rauh recalled. “I knew instantly that I was going to hire him somehow, some way.”
At Chelsea Groton, Joyce has served as a commercial loan officer and a senior lending officer, and in 2020 was named chief operating officer, a role in which he was groomed to take over as CEO.
“At his core, he’s just a terrific human being,” Rauh said. “So, you start with that ― and he’s got tremendous banking experience. You don’t need to bring someone in from the outside if you’ve got somebody like Tony on the inside. It’s been a seamless transition.”
Joyce was born in New London and lived on Blackhall Court until his family moved to Waterford when he was 7 years old. He graduated from St. Bernard School in Uncasville, and met his wife, Lori, in college. They have two grown daughters, Juli, a teacher, and Mandy, a physician assistant at Backus Hospital in Norwich.
His familiarity with the region will serve Joyce well as bank president, according to Tony Sheridan, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut. Joyce has served as vice chairman of the chamber’s board of directors since 2021.
“He’s a perfect fit for the (Chelsea Groton) job,” Sheridan said of Joyce. “I rely on him to make sure our finances are in good shape. He knows not only the banking industry, but the whole financial world very, very well.”
Sheridan said the affable Joyce is “forthcoming and thoughtful in his approach, which makes it easy for anyone to reach out to him.”
“I expect Chelsea Groton will grow under his leadership,” Sheridan added.
“Road-tested” after two years as COO, Joyce said he’s now been exposed to every aspect of the banking business.
“I think I’m a people person,” he said. “I spend a lot of time with the ‘team.’ We’ve got a great culture here and we’ve all had a hand in creating it.”
A mutual bank that responds to customers as opposed to shareholders, Chelsea Groton has 225 employees, 13 full-service branches and one loan-application center as well as $1.5 billion in assets, according to Joyce. Its deposits represent 19% of the New London County market.
While poised for growth, the bank has no current plans to expand its footprint, Joyce said.
“We want to continue to be a force in southeastern Connecticut,” he said. “Our commitment to customers is to take on their goals as if they were our own. We’ve got online banking, mobile deposits, controls on debit cards and online loan applications. The dichotomy is people still value face-to-face interactions ― commercial lending is a good example of that.”
“We have to make everything available,” Joyce said.