Article by: Laura Ruane, Fort Myers News-Press
Published 11:16 a.m. ET Oct. 12, 2018
A shabby property in south Fort Myers is about to get new life as a banking center.
Fort Myers-based FineMark National Bank & Trust is going to bulldoze The Atrium Executive Center, near the corner of College Parkway and Winkler Road, and build a three-story headquarters with plenty of parking and two out-parcels.
It’s a logical next step for the bank, which opened near the start of the Great Recession and has been adding offices from Scottsdale, Arizona, to Charleston, South Carolina.
And although it’s not going public, for the first time shares could soon be available through an over-the-counter exchange.
It’s proof that a company can think big and still act small.
It can build a staff that does the right things for the right reasons.
With those tenets of personal service and sincerity of intent, FineMark has grown steadily, with total assets soaring from $35 million to $1.8 billion over the past 11 years.
During that time, staffing has grown from 10 to nearly 200 system-wide, with offices in Lee and Collier counties, Palm Beach, Scottsdale and Charleston.
That growth and expectations for future expansions have brought FineMark to the next step: A new headquarters that will be triple the size of its digs in south Fort Myers’ Riverwalk at Whiskey Creek office park – and have almost four times the parking.
A young entrepreneur’s plans to purchase and renovate The Atrium Executive Center into an innovation hub fell apart last year.
A FineMark-owned limited liability corporation bought the property in mid-September for just over $5.96 million, and will demolish the 39-year-old building once the single remaining tenant – Salon Tate – is able to relocate. After that, construction could take up to two years.
“We really like the location. It’s about a 30-second walk from here. From a client’s standpoint, it’s almost as if we’re not relocating,” said Joseph “Joe” Catti, FineMark president & CEO.
It’s near the McGregor Boulevard corridor of affluent neighborhoods including Gulf Harbor and feeder roads to Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach. Clients heading to the bank can access it from College Parkway and Winkler Road.
Gary Tasman, CEO and principal broker at Cushman & Wakefield Commercial Property Southwest Florida, represented the bank in the sale. About a half-dozen properties were considered. He elaborated on the location’s strengths:
“It’s a key corner in a high-traffic area, with a tremendous demographic profile and close proximity to the business community.”
Catti, Tasman said, “is very comfortable he can transform it into a landmark location for the bank.”
To be sure, the new headquarters will be worlds apart from the former Blockbuster video store on U.S. 41 that Catti and company leased to debut the bank in early 2007.
Construction of a more-permanent home in Riverwalk began in May that same year. That two-story building drew admiration for such features as private dining rooms with on-site executive chefs, for banker-client meetings.
FineMark also took this food-and-beverage service a step further by offering its facilities and catering to community organizations that don’t have function space or can’t afford to rent it.
It’s one of the ways it aims to go above and beyond. Since opening in February 2007, FineMark has donated more than $5 million to charitable causes. Its philanthropy has included funding the infrastructure for 11 Habitat for Humanity homes in the Harlem Heights community south of Fort Myers.
FineMark staffers also personally help build Habitat homes, work at food pantries and gather holiday gifts for needy families, among other community service initiatives.
From the start, Catti believed his new bank should do more than provide financial services: “We want to make a positive impact on people’s lives.”
He’s a proponent of the principles in the popular book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t”, by management consultant Jim Collins, which originally was published in 2001.
Catti also strives to practice “servant leadership,” a phrase first coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in a 1970 essay. A leader with a servant’s heart works tirelessly to develop his or her team, and is focused on what they can do for others.
In a FineMark-produced book commemorating its first 10 years, an early client shared her early encounters with the bank.
Caroline Bloomhall, widowed in 2008, wanted a line of credit. She had assets, but it was in the middle of the recession and few banks were lending.
More than one banker said no. Then Bloomhall and Catti got acquainted by chance at an event.
FineMark not only lent her the money, Bloomhall said Catti took her under his wing, helping her to find a doctor and a lawyer. Before long, her friends also became bank clients.
Said Bloomhall: “Working with FineMark is like how banking used to be years and years ago.”
That kind of deep relationship with clients isn’t confined to Catti. He’ll share examples of associates volunteering to give clients ride to the airport, of helping a client shop for a car.
“There’s never an ulterior motive in what we do. No one is pressured to sell a service,” Catti said.
That hasn’t held FineMark back in a highly competitive industry. It’s achieved 29 consecutive quarters of 5-star ratings from Bauer Financial, the independent bank and credit union rating firm. Five stars is Bauer’s best rating, reflecting the overall financial strength of an institution.
Catti is committed to keeping its guiding principles top of mind as FineMark makes room for more growth.
“We aren’t driven by growth; we’re driven by taking care of people,” he said.
“And, that has resulted in growth.”