Article Features FineMark as a Healthy Bank

08/15/2013

Fewer Players, Healthier Banks
Financial reports show the institutions who've survived are more cautious and growing.
Written by Dick Hogan. August 2013 News Press


And then there were seven.


Banks based in Lee and Collier counties, that is – a third of the 21 that existed 10 years ago.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. recently released the second-quarter results for the reports all federally chartered lending institutions are required to file.

The list for Lee County included only four, one less than existed 10 days ago when First Community Bank of Southwest Florida was closed by regulators and its deposits assumed by St. Petersburg-based C1 Bank.

First Community’s seven locations are still open but now they’re C1 branches.

That’s been a familiar story here since the real estate price implosion that started in early 2006. Bank after bank found itself with huge numbers of bad loans backed by land and buildings.

The most spectacular failure was Naples-based Orion Bank, shut down in 2009 with $277.3 million in non-performing debt on its books.

Second place went to Immokalee-based Florida Community Bank, which was closed down in 2010 with $191.3 million.

Now, for the first time since the bust, all the survivors and recent arrivals are solid citizens — more cautious with better diversified loan portfolios.

“We’ve got the benefit of when we got into the banking business here,” said Tom Ray, president of Naples-based Encore National Bank, which was formed in December 2010 when National Bank of Southwest Florida merged with four branches that until a month ago were part of Houston-based Encore Bank.

“Where Encore’s been well positioned is that we’ve been able to focus on the healthy part of the economy without having to worry about a bunch of problem loans,” he said.

That was the problem with First Community, which found itself unable to regain its footing after betting heavily on construction loans and loans backed by residential properties.

While today’s locally based banks are healthier, they’re so diminished in number that today’s lending environment is radically changed from pre-bust conditions, said Mark Morris, a former banker who is now an agent with Sands Commercial Group at VIP Realty in Fort Myers.