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Canadian bank expands its Florida footprint

TD Bank, the American arm of Canadian banking titan Toronto-Dominion, is making up for lost time reaching out to Canadian snowbirds and other potential customers in the Sunshine State.

On Thursday, TD closed on its acquisition of the troubled South Financial Group, which operates as Mercantile Bank in Florida. Mercantile's 66 Florida branches, including 19 in the Tampa Bay area, are being melded with branches acquired through three small failed Florida institutions to give TD about 165 locations statewide.

"Now we've got a great, great footprint," said Kevin Gillen, who is overseeing the bank's Florida operations from his base in Fort Lauderdale.

In addition to South Financial/Mercantile, TD Bank earlier bought Riverside National Bank of Florida in Fort Pierce, American First Bank in Clermont and First Federal Bank of North Florida in Palatka.

The three banks were rebranded this past week with the TD name. But TD plans to take it slower in converting the larger Mercantile operation, with signage and electronic systems not switching over until the summer of 2011.

Gillen, who has spent 11 of his 31 years in banking with TD, said his institution has some advantages in its Florida push, notably strong ties to part-time Canadian and Northeastern residents plus the national name recognition of its TD Ameritrade brokerage.

Deposit-rich Florida has long been a fertile battleground for large banks, a situation only exacerbated when JPMorgan Chase bought Washington Mutual and Wells Fargo bought Wachovia.

To stand out from the crowd, Gillen said, his bank will emphasize its small business lending, its expertise in niches like health care lending and, perhaps most importantly, its financial strength.

"We're one of the few banks that didn't have the writedowns from the subprime market meltdown," he said. "We're one of the very few banks with a AAA rating."

TD keeps many of its branches open seven days a week, a tie-in to its marketing slogan of being "America's Most Convenient Bank."

Note: Kevin Gillen's name is misspelled in an earlier online version of this story.

Canadian bank expands its Florida footprint 10/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, October 4, 2010 11:59am]
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