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After Bryn Mawr merger, WSFS Bank eyes local growth

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WSFS Bryn Mawr Trust

WSFS Bank has become the sixth largest bank in the Philadelphia region after acquiring Bryn Mawr Trust, and it now aims to grow customers in a new larger footprint. | PHOTO COURTESY OF WSFS

WILMINGTON – The last five years have been a period of unprecedented growth for Delaware’s largest remaining homegrown bank, but WSFS Bank is now prioritizing its existing network rather than continuing to push its boundaries.

Last year, WSFS finished integration of the former Bryn Mawr Trust in a $976.4 million acquisition deal that increased the bank’s assets by about 25% and its wealth management assets by more than 40%. The deal came just two years after WSFS finished integrating the former Beneficial Bank on the heels of a $1.5 billion deal.

Altogether, the acquisitions saw WSFS increase its assets by 175% in five years and its assets under management or administration by 240%. Today, WSFS is the largest locally headquartered bank in the greater Philadelphia region and ranks No. 6 by market share.

Dominic Canuso WSFS Bank CFO

Dominic Canuso | PHOTO COURTESY OF WSFS BANK

“We believe, with the disaggregated market share where the top five large banks not having much more than 15% each, that there’s tremendous opportunity,” said Dominic Canuso, chief financial officer at WSFS. “Many of those banks are focused on combinations outside of our region or strategies outside of the region. So, while they are good banks and doing what’s right for their bank strategy, they’re not all focused on Philadelphia and Delaware like WSFS is.”

New growth will come internally rather than through continued acquisitions or expansion of new service areas, according to Canuso. The Wilmington-headquartered bank’s three-year strategic plan through 2024 calls to “focus, integrate and optimize” the 12-county market that it currently operates in across Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland. After closing some in the wake of the BMT deal, WSFS now has 88 branches – or about half of what WSFS, BMT and Beneficial combined had five years ago.

“For us right now, it’s really all about generating the returns on our $2 billion of investment,” Canuso said. “We have a lot of opportunity that we’re focused on and taking our eyes off that would only be a distraction.”

That means WSFS, like many regional and national banks, will be looking to adapt its brick-and-mortar branches to be more customer service-oriented than deposit-focused, as mobile deposits and banking have increased especially after the pandemic. The bank is also investing in technology upgrades to ensure that customer service is seamless, such as starting a loan application online and finishing it in person at a branch.

“While branch transactions continued to decline, I liken it to the Genius Bar at Apple. You don’t go to Apple to buy your phone, you go there when you need something,” Canuso said.

The growth of new customers will also come from partnerships with online companies like SoFi, Spring EQ and Upstart, where WSFS actually fulfills originated loans. The bank could then include those customers in its offerings for deposit products or mortgages, or other needs.

“I think those are the capabilities of the future, particularly for consumer banking. You need to be able to start their relationship in any channel, but then continue in all channels,” Canuso said.

One of the biggest outcomes to the BMT deal was the addition of its well-regarded wealth management business, which now makes WSFS the sixth largest wealth franchise for a bank under $100 billion in assets with nearly $65 million under management or administration. More than half of that comes from out of the tri-state region, as the division has clients and referring partners in all 50 states.

The franchise includes private banking, in-branch investments, ultra-high net worth services, private and personal trusts, along with institutional trusts, Canuso said.

“Keeping the Bryn Mawr Trust brand is significant because it is known nationally and internationally and has a strong history of value in the wealth world,” he added, noting that the fees generated from the division totaled about 12% of revenue last year.

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