Colonial Co-Operative Bank agrees to consent order to return to ‘satisfactory financial condition’

Colonial Co-Operative Bank, a small community bank in Gardner, agreed to a rare consent order with state and federal regulators this month to “restore the bank to a satisfactory financial condition’’ with adequate capital and earnings.

The bank also agreed to retain qualified managers, including a chief executive, and develop plans to improve the bank’s operations as part of the August 7 agreement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Massachusetts Division of Banks.

The Central Massachusetts bank said it is still searching for a permanent chief executive after the previous chief executive, Eleanor Fox, stepped down by mutual agreement late last year.


Joseph Guercio, senior vice president and acting chief executive, said the bank was hit hard by the collapse of the housing market in the area, which affected its loan portfolio. “The bank got caught up in that and suffered accordingly,’’ Guercio said. Guercio said the bank has since taken steps to improve its finances, but “it has taken time’’ to repair.

The order comes at a time when many tiny banks have had trouble earning a significant profit because of the weak economy, increased regulation, and ultra-low interest rates,which limit how much banks can earn on their deposits from safe investments. For those reasons, a number of small community banks have decided to merge with larger, more profitable banks.

The bank, founded in 1891 has only about two dozen employees and $72 million in assets. In addition to its main office in Gardner, the bank also has a branch in Winchendon.

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