“You know who’s good” might be one of my favorite conversation starters… be it talking football or baseball, banking or business, it always interests me to hear who others consider leaders in a particular field or discipline. As the country’s economic recession gives way to recovery and many more banks return to profitability, quite a few executives have success stories to share. This week’s tip sheet builds on last week’s post by highlighting three exceptional CEOs that lead publicly traded banks before shifting to the thoughts and opinions of two very talented colleagues.
(1) In case you missed it, last week’s tip sheet looked at some of the best CEOs in the business today — broken down into three categories: the “biggest banks” with $50Bn+ in assets, those with more than $5Bn but less than $50Bn and finally, those in the $1Bn to $5Bn size range. After I posted the piece, I thought about a number of bankers that could have been included in the $5 to $50Bn summary. For example, Joe DePaolo, the president & CEO of Manhattan-based Signature Bank, a $19.7-billion asset, NASDAQ-listed financial institution. He’s led the bank’s growth, from a mere $50 million in assets at its founding in 2001 to close to $20 billion today.
Likewise, Jim Herbert’s work to build First Republic Bank (the bank he founded in 1985 and is listed on the NYSE) deserves praise and recognition. I shared my thoughts on Jim’s bank after meeting him last year. For those in the know, First Republic is one of this country’s great banks. Not only is it solely focused on organic growth, it’s also focused solely on private banking. While my conversation with Jim was off-the-record, I left his office convinced its the smarts within, not the size of, a bank that will separate the have’s from the have-nots in the years ahead. Clearly, as new regulations and slim profit margins challenge the banking industry, the skills and backgrounds of the employees who work in banking must change too.
Finally, the co-head of Sandler O’Neill’s Investment Banking group, Bill Hickey, praised Vince Delie – the President & Chief Executive Officer of the 11.7Bn, NYSE-listed FNB Corproration. According to Bill, Vince “has led FNB through four acquisitions in the last three years and three capital raise transactions… FNB continues to deliver above market returns and has been rewarded with a currency that trades at 245% of Tangible Book Value.”
(2) Before joining out team a few years ago, Bank Director Magazine’s Managing Editor, Naomi Snyder, spent 13 years as a business reporter for newspapers in South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee. Based on this background, and her current responsibilities, I asked for her thoughts on the qualities and characteristics of a successful bank CEO. In her words, “some of the CEOs of great banks seem to have leadership qualities without being bullies. I don’t think they hire a bunch of “yes” people who will agree with them as the ship is sinking. They don’t have charismatic personalities at the expense of honesty and ethics.” She noted that in multiple performance rankings in Bank Director magazine, these banks show some consistent themes. “Great banks differentiate themselves from the competition. They often don’t compete on price but on quality of service, and there is no way to do that without hiring a superior staff and motivating employees to do their best.”
(3) To put some color and context to Naomi’s thoughts, I asked Jack Milligan, the Editor of Bank Director magazine, to share his thoughts on three community bank CEOs that are doing some impressive things. The qualifier? Keep ’em “local” — he is in Charlottesville, I’m in D.C. — and close to $1Bn size. Fortunately for me, Jack accepted my challenge and suggested I take a look at Fairfax, VA-based First Virginia Community Bank (FVC). Led by Chairman & CEO David Pijor, FVC was “a November 2007 de novo that has grown to $422 million in assets as of December 2013. Pijor, a veteran of the NOVA banking market, raised $23 million in a little over eight weeks and had the bank up and running in just 11 months. Granted, this was prior to the subprime mortgage crisis and “Great Depression,” and Pijor has had the advantage of being in one of the strongest banking markets in the country, but the bank’s loans, deposits and capital over the past 7+ years have been impressive all the same. Pijor also did a small acquisition in late 2012 that enabled FVC to expand into neighboring Arlington County. I would expect to see big things out of this little bank.”
Next, he pointed me towards Citizens & Northern Corp., a financial institution based in Wellsboro, PA and led by their Chairman & CEO, Chuck Updegraff. As Jack shared, “C&N is situated in North Central Pennsylvania, not exactly a banking growth market although the local economy has received a bit of a lift from natural gas exploration in the Marcellus Shale Region. This is just a very well-run bank that makes the most of what its market has to offer, and Updegraff deserves credit for running a very tight ship. C&N has a little over $1.3 billion in assets and was the top ranked $1-$5 billion bank on Bank Director’s 2012 Bank Performance Scorecard and the 2nd ranked bank in 2013.”
Finally, Jack lauded National Bankshares Inc., an organization that counts James Rakes as its Chairman & CEO. Per Jack: “if you’ve ever been to Blacksburg, VA – the home of Virginia Tech University and a neighbor of nearby Radford University in Christiansburg – you know that it’s a beehive of activity nestled in the mountains and forests of Southwestern Virginia. At just slightly over $1 billion in assets,National Bankshares is another well-managed bank that takes full advantage of everything its market has to offer – in its case a relatively strong local economy that benefits from having two vibrant universities. Virginia Tech is the 2nd largest public college in the state and is a major research institution. National was the 3rd ranked bank in the $1-$5 billion category in the 2012 Bank Performance Scorecard, and placed 6th in 2013.”
Now, I will tease Jack that he could have talked about a number of fine community banks in the Washington, D.C. area (for example, the Bank of Georgetown, which has grown considerably under the leadership of Mike Fitzgerald, their Chairman, President & CEO). Nonetheless, his is a good look at those institutions that may not have national brand recognition, but are strong and stable pieces of their local communities.