Amid financial chaos, let's start a bank!
Not sure whether to cry or laugh on this one. Have we encountered brilliant contrarians or idiot savants? An investor group plans to raise at least $18-million to open a new bank in Sarasota County, says a story in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune today. The proposed Consumer First Bank, N.A., would offer banking service seven days a week and entice checking account customers with a free share of stock, chairman and CEO Anthony N. Leo tells the newspaper. "It will be a middle-class bank serving the middle class." He says the startup of a bank now (which won't actually open until the spring) is smart. As many Southwest Florida banks cope with soured loans and tighter lending standards, Leo says, "our balance sheet will be clean. ... We also will be in a position to lend. There are plenty of good lending opportunities out there, if you are in a position to lend."
Wow, now that's striking while the federal financial bailout is still hot. Florida's only bank failure (so far) this year was First Priority, just up the road in Bradenton. And Florida has seven "zero" star banks (the weakest of our litter) that, in the greater Tampa Bay area, include: Freedom Bank of Bradenton (not the one in St. Petersburg), Ocala National Bank, Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast in Cape Coral, and Community National Bank of Sarasota County in Venice. There are just two one-star banks, in Immokalee and ... where else? ... Sarasota.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist