Make us your home page

First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay makes troubled list

The roster of severely troubled Florida banks jumped more than 70 percent in the fourth quarter, increasing the likelihood of more bank failures, according to ratings agency Bauer Financial.

First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay was the only bay area representative among 19 Florida banks that Bauer gave a "zero-star" rating, signifying deep distress.

First Commercial, a community bank with two locations catering primarily to Tampa's Westshore financial district, is marking its 20th anniversary this year. With more than $150 million in assets, the bank was considered well capitalized in Bauer's analysis.

However, it's also considered susceptible to the real estate downturn, with a heavy concentration of delinquent loans.

The bank posted a fourth-quarter loss of $1.5 million, bringing total losses for the year to $3.3 million. And, most troubling from Bauer's perspective, its total of loans that were delinquent at least 90 days jumped from $9.5 million to $16.6 million in the quarter.

Albert Salem Jr., First Commercial's chairman and chief executive, said Monday that his bank has strong reserves and liquidity, but he's frustrated that there's no sign of a real estate turnaround.

"The bank is very stable … but how long can you keep doing this?" Salem said. "I feel like a quarterback playing football in the fog. Where's my receiver at? Where's the goal line at? Am I going in the right direction? I can't even see the scoreboard."

Salem said he feels sorry for honest developers "who got stuck when the music stopped" and doesn't want to foreclose on them, picking up property that the bank doesn't want.

"They weren't reckless and crazy," he said. "They were doing what everyone else was doing. Now they're stuck with properties and can't do anything with them."

In early 2006, when the housing boom was at its apex, federal regulators noted it was the first time in history that more than 50 percent of Florida's community banks held construction and development loans exceeding 100 percent of the bank's capital. At the time, First Commercial's ratio of 252 percent in loans to capital was second-highest among bay area community banks.

In Bauer's rating hierarchy, a five-star bank is very healthy, a three-star bank is okay and two stars or fewer indicate problems. In the previous quarter, First Commercial had a two-star rating.

The number of problem banks statewide — two stars or below — swelled from 52 to 67. And the damage could have been worse. Not included in that tally are two banks that have failed since the last quarter: Ocala National Bank in Ocala and Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast in Cape Coral.

"We knew year-end was going to be a messy quarter, and it was," said Karen Dorway, Bauer's president and director of research.

One bright side from a regional perspective: The immediate Tampa Bay area — Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties — continued to fare better than much of the rest of the state. The only two-star bank in the area is Old Harbor Bank in Clearwater. In contrast, Sarasota/Naples, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and the Panhandle all have far more problem institutions.

Accounts in a bank insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are protected to a point. Congress has temporarily increased FDIC deposit insurance from $100,000 to $250,000 per depositor through Dec. 31.

A takeover by the FDIC is the most dramatic way of dealing with a weakened bank. Or a stronger bank may step in with a merger. An Alabama insurance company earlier this year agreed to buy Bank of Bonifay, one of the zero-stars on Bauer's list.

Bauer on Monday also released its quarterly database for credit unions, reiterating a few areas of concern. Bay Gulf Credit Union of Tampa was a one-star, unchanged from last quarter. And Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union of Tampa was unchanged as a two-star institution. Suncoast, the biggest credit union in Florida with $6 billion in assets, is merging with GTE Federal Credit Union.

Jeff Harrington may be reached at or (727) 893-8242.

First Commercial Bank of Tampa Bay makes troubled list 03/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 24, 2011 5:39pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally


    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  2. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members


    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  3. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion


    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay health care leaders wary of getting too far ahead in disruptive times


    Are attempts to repeal Obamacare dead for the foreseeable future? Might the Affordable Care Act (ACA), now in dire limbo, be revived? Will Medicaid coverage for the most in need be gutted? Can Republicans now in charge of the White House, Senate and House ever agree to deliver a substitute health care plan that people …

    Natalia Ricabal of Lutz, 12 years old, joined other pediatric cancer patients in Washington in July to urge Congress to protect Medicaid coverage that helped patients like Ricabal fight cancer. She was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2013 and has undergone extensive treatments at BayCare's St. Joseph's Children's Hospital in Tampa. [Courtesy of BayCare]