Make us your home page

After years of too many failures, area banks covet stability

After 56 Florida banks failed in the past three years, the Sunshine State may be seeing some light at the end of a dark financial tunnel. Wounded banks with enough of a capital cushion remaining may live long enough to prosper again.

Let's set the scene:

• Of the 92 bank failures across the country in 2011, only 13 were in Florida. Only four of those were Tampa Bay institutions.

• Forty-three Florida banks still operating are considered extremely weak. They earned a "zero star" on Bauer Financial's 0- to 5-star ranking in the latest available quarter. Fortunately, only three of those 43 banks are based in the Tampa Bay area. Most are clustered in the Panhandle and South Florida.

• Remarkably, a resilient 30 out of Florida's 300-plus banks not only sailed through this recession in good shape but attained the highest 5-star ranking from Bauer Financial. Three of those 30 are based in this metro area.

One of those rare 5-star banks is Tampa's NorthStar Bank, which opened its doors in 2007 just before the economy tanked.

CEO Monty Weigel — bolstered by a strong board with directors like John Sykes, founder of Sykes Enterprises and JHS Capital Advisors, and former University of South Florida president Betty Castor — says NorthStar stuck to the kind of corporate and commercial real estate lending that it knows best. That's how it avoided most of the troubles that toppled or damaged so many other banks during the severe recession.

A 35-year industry veteran, Weigel now sees fewer banks out there trying to grow via excessive risk taking. Well-run, out-of-state banks new to Florida have entered the market to take up the slack. That winnowing of weaker institutions will help Florida's recovery, he says.

"We are asked routinely by the FDIC to bid on failed banks because we are strong," the NorthStar chief says. So far, no deals have been struck.

Still, the shakeout of Florida banking has a ways to go.

A new Wall Street Journal analysis suggests that failures are down in part because troubled banks aren't failing as quickly.

"Weak banks are staying alive for longer periods in undercapitalized condition, and they are in weaker shape when they fail than in the past," the Journal reports. In fact, 844 institutions remain on regulators' problem-bank list. The hefty numbers suggest we have several years yet to sort out who will survive and who will not.

This much is clear: Banks weak in capital and under the thumb of regulators can lose much of their independence in deciding whether to make loans to businesses or renew existing lines of credit. That creates a ripple effect on business customers that find their access to credit curtailed or cut off.

Even regulators are under the gun. The federal government's cost to resolve a failed bank is higher whenever an institution is closed in weaker shape than in the past.

At NorthStar, the one-office bank operates from downtown Tampa's "Beer Can" tower on North Ashley with $185 million in assets and 19 employees. Weigel is sensing more business momentum after a tough 2011.

"This is a popular place," he says. "Florida will be fine."

Robert Trigaux can be reached at


Robust or reeling

in Florida banking

• Of the 30 healthiest, or

"5-star," banks based in Florida, three are in the Tampa Bay area: NorthStar Bank and TCM Bank in Tampa, and Raymond James Bank FSB in St. Petersburg.

• Of 43 "zero star," or weakest, banks in Florida, only three are based in the Tampa Bay area: First Home Bank in Seminole, Florida Bank in Tampa and Heritage Bank of Florida in Lutz.

• Of 13 Florida banks to fail in 2011 and to be sold off to stronger institutions, four were in the Tampa Bay region: Cortez Community Bank in Brooksville, First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay in Tampa, Southshore Community Bank in Apollo Beach and Old Harbor Bank in Clearwater.

Sources: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., Bauer Financial.

After years of too many failures, area banks covet stability 01/04/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 8:43pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. The FHP trooper behind quota on speeding tickets will retire Sept. 5

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — A Florida Highway Patrol official's call for troopers to meet ticket quotas has cost him his job.

    Major Mark D. Welch, Troop Commander of Troop H, wrote an email asking his employees that he wants them to write two citations each hour. "This is not a quota," he wrote. His resignation is effective Sept. 5. [Florida Highway Patrol]
  3. Trump shuts down CEO advisory councils as main group acts to disband


    President Donald Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded on Wednesday following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them. Soon after, the president announced on Twitter that he would end his executive councils, "rather than …

    President Donald Trump meets with Merck's chief executive, Kenneth Frazier, second from left, and other leaders of the pharmaceutical industry in the Roosevelt Room of the White House last January. On Wednesday, Trump's main council of top corporate leaders disbanded following the president's controversial remarks in which he equated white nationalist hate groups with the protesters opposing them.
[New York Times file photo]
  4. A long-awaited vision for Tampa's Westshore Marina District

    Real Estate

    TAMPA —Eleven years after plans to develop a waterfront tract on the Tampa side of the Gandy Bridge were first announced, a new rendering gives a hint of what Westshore Marina District ultimately will look like.

    Rendering of Marina Pointe, a condo project overlooking Tampa Bay as part of the Westshore Marina District. [Courtesy of Masterfile Corp.}
  5. Buddy Brew Coffee to open downtown Tampa location


    TAMPA — Buddy Brew Coffee plans to open a new location in downtown Tampa at Park Tower in early 2018. The specialty coffee craft roaster, which was founded in 2010, has five other locations throughout Tampa including the Oxford Exchange, Sarasota, Hyde Park Village and Terminal F inside the Tampa International …

    A cappuccino is displayed at Buddy Brew in Tampa in January 2017. [CHARLIE KAIJO | Times]