TAMPA — What do you do when all the good bank names are taken?
Recycle one, of course.
Today, the fledgling Community National Bank of the South is trading in its forgettable moniker for HomeBanc, formerly the name of one of the Southeast's largest mortgage lenders.
"We thought it was a great name," said Jerry Campbell, president, chairman and CEO of the bank's Tampa-based holding company, CNBS Financial Group. "The size of the name fits on a building well and it's indicative of the business we are in." That would be residential mortgage lending with a dash of commercial mortgages and small business loans.
Campbell said every other name bank officials took a fancy to was not available. In fact, he said, their research showed more than 700 potential bank names were off limits in Florida because current or former users had exclusive rights.
There was, however, one potentially big problem with HomeBanc: The reason the name was available was because the Atlanta company that owned it filed for bankruptcy last August. When mortgage financing dried up, HomeBanc Corp. quickly collapsed. Once listed on the New York Stock Exchange, HomeBanc did as much as $5-billion worth of mortgages in a year during the real estate boom, primarily in Georgia and Florida. CNBS bought the rights to the name from the Delaware bankruptcy trustee for an undisclosed price.
Whether recycling the name of a bankrupt company is a problem depends on how the target market perceives the name, said Ken Banks, a marketing and branding consultant with KAB Marketing in Seminole. He said research is vital.
"If a fairly significant percentage have negative perceptions of it or even misconceptions, you might want to think about something else," he said. "With HomeBanc, I don't remember it being a notorious collapse; it's not like it was Enron or something that had a lot of bad press."
Campbell said CNBS used a focus group in Tampa to find out what people thought about the name. "We never found anybody who knew what happened," he said. "They remembered the name. They remembered the sign. Some even remembered doing business with them. They just didn't know where it went."
Campbell also liked the idea that HomeBanc had built a good image before its collapse, winning recognition both nationally and in Tampa as a great place to work. And while "HomeBanc" may be unique, many bank names include the word "home."
Coincidentally, CNBS recently signed a lease on office space the old HomeBanc occupied in the Rocky Point area of Tampa and has hired some of its former employees.
The new HomeBanc has five offices now and hopes to have 13 by year-end, then expand aggressively in central and southwest Florida. The long-range plan is to move into Georgia and the Carolinas. Most locations are loan production offices, typically staffed with three to six officers, but sometimes as many as 10. Others will have full banking services. Campbell said the bank is on pace to do close to $500-million worth of loans this year.
Golfer Brittany Lincicome, who lives in Seminole, has signed on to promote the bank. She'll be wearing the HomeBanc logo on golf shirts and sweaters while competing on the LPGA tour.
Campbell, 67, was the founder and chief executive of Republic Bank of Michigan, which was sold to Citizens Bancorp for $1.6-billion in 2006. As part of the deal, he agreed not to compete against the bank in Michigan. That prompted him to turn to Florida to stay in the industry.
Campbell and a group of investors raised $49-million to acquire a start-up central Florida bank and launch the holding company. Large investors in addition to Campbell include Michigan friends John Krasula, Robert Liggett Jr., William Rands III and Art VanElslander.
Campbell and his wife, Lisa, have long-standing ties to the Tampa Bay area. They own a condo on Sand Key and two dozen racehorses at Tampa Bay Downs.
"We like Florida a lot," he said. "We've had horses at Tampa Bay Downs for 30 years ."
Helen Huntley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8230.