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. Trigaux: Tampa Bay household income tops $50,000 but still makes us look poor

    Personal Finance

    The good news is Tampa Bay's median household income finally crawled above $50,000 last year. The bad news is that figure — officially $51,115 by new U.S. Census Bureau data — still puts the Tampa Bay region as the poorest of the nation's 25 largest metro areas.

    Tampa Bay still has the lowest median household income among the 25 most populous metro areas, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
  2. Make-A-Wish Foundation aims to help more kids in Tampa Bay


    The Make-A-Wish Foundation is on the lookout for sick children in the Tampa Bay area who need a once-in-a-lifetime pick-me-up.

    Grace Savage, a 10-year-old girl with a chromosomal disorder made a trek to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium last year, courtesy of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation intends to beef up its presence in the Tampa Bay area after a reorganization. The region is now the responsibility of the foundation's Southern Florida chapter, one of the most active in the country, with more than 11,000 wishes granted so far. [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times ]
  3. Florida hides details in nursing home reports. Federal agencies don't.


    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott widened his offensive Thursday against the Broward nursing home he blames for the deaths of 10 residents by setting up a tip line for information, but when it comes to access to the inspection reports of all nursing homes, the governor's administration has heavily censored what the …

    In the foreground is a document detailing the findings of a Feb. 2016 inspection at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills obtained from a federal agency, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Behind it is the state?€™s version of the same document, from the Agency for Health Care Administration, showing how it has been redacted before being released to the public. [Miami Herald]
  4. 'Toxic' times: How repeal of Florida's tax on services reverberates, 30 years later

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Long before Hurricane Irma attacked Florida, the state faced a troubled fiscal future that the storm will only make worse.

    Robertson says the tax debate is now “toxic.”
  5. Fewer Tampa Bay homeowners are underwater on their mortgages

    Real Estate

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages continues to drop. In the second quarter of this year, 10.2 percent of borrowers had negative equity compared to nearly 15 percent in the same period a year ago, CoreLogic reported Thursday. Nationally, 5.4 percent of all mortgaged homes were …

    The percentage of Tampa Bay homeowners underwater on their mortgages  continues to drop. [Times file photo]