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Arnold leads Conn. bank.

Last September, former Hartford, Conn., deputy mayor Rudolph P. Arnold was elected chairman of Society for Savings Bancorp Inc. He is believed to be the first African-American to head a nonminority commercial bank. By inheriting the leadership of a $3.3 billion banking company that reported losses of $52.4 million in 1990, Arnold faces the daunting challenge of rallying the troubled institution at a time when the nation's banks are slumping.

Last year, at least 17 Connecticut banks failed due to losses caused by delinquent loans. "With the challenges facing the state banking industry . . ., Rudy's integrity and ability are precisely what's needed," says Connecticut State Treasurer Francisco L. Borges.

Arnold, 43, is charged with implementing a restructuring plan that was approved in 1990. The plan would reduce Society's assets from $4.3 billion to less than $3 billion. The bank has already sold off $1.2 billion in real estate and other assets, and plans to sell off more. These moves are designed to remove Society from the commercial real estate market so that the bank can focus more on the business of residential mortgage and consumer lending. The bank is also evaluating the possible sale of Fidelity Acceptance Corp., its highly profitable consumer finance unit.

"Banking as it was, is never going to be the same," says Arnold. "Major [financial] transactions and major real estate deals certainly are not going to be the market for small community banks." To be successful, "Small banks must find their niche in serving the banking needs of their community," says Arnold. He also believes that financial institutions may have to be more creative. "The banks that know the customers and can evaluate them on more than what they see on the balance sheet, certainly have an advantage."

Arnold, owner of the Hartford-based law firm Arnold & Associates, has received strong support from the banking community. "It's positive that we have a minority person proving that he can run a bank like Society," says Julio Casiano, president of the Urban Bankers Association of Connecticut.
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Title Annotation:Rudolph P. Arnold
Author:Williams, Stephen
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Feb 1, 1992
Words:340
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