First Bank (FRBA-OTCBB)

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August 20, 2012 Issue

The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information


With a Board of Directors and Senior Management that have a Proven Track Record in Growing a Bank, New Jersey State Chartered First Bank has the People and Services in Place to Succeed During Any Type of Economic Conditions

Paul Fitzgerald
Pres, Chief Exec. Officer

Paul Fitzgerald, our President & CEO, is a seasoned banker with over 35 years experience in the New Jersey Banking market. Prior to joining First Bank, Mr. Fitzgerald was President and CEO of two de novo banks – Freedom Bank in Oradell, NJ and North Jersey Community Bank in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. He also served as President and Senior Loan Officer of Somerset Hills Bank in Bernardsville, NJ. Mr. Fitzgerald was previously active in the Mercer County area in a senior management position with Chemical Bank NJ (Princeton Bank). During his career, Mr. Fitzgerald has had extensive experience in commercial lending, business development, operations and community relations.

Mr. Fitzgerald received a BA degree in economics from Princeton University, a MBA degree from Rutgers University and a degree from the Stonier Graduate School of Banking.

Company Profile:

First Bank ( is a New Jersey, state-chartered bank, which conducts its business with four full-service branches in Ewing, Hamilton, Lawrence, and Williamstown, New Jersey. With $315 million in assets as of June 30, 2012, First Bank offers a range of deposit and loan products to individuals and businesses in its Central and Southern New Jersey markets. First Bank's common stock is quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board under the symbol "FRBA."

Community Bank

First Bank
2465 Kuser Road, Suite 101
Hamilton, NJ 08690
Phone: 609-643-4211

FRBA-Print Version


Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published - August 2012

CEOCFO: Mr. Fitzgerald, what is the story of First Bank? How would you describe the bank to someone who had never been there?

Mr. Fitzgerald: First Bank is a community bank started in 2007 that has grown to over $300 million in assets with four branches and continues to grow very nicely and do well even during challenging conditions in the overall economy.

CEOCFO: What changed about the initial plan as the overall economic system has changed?

Mr. Fitzgerald: We just tried to stick to the basics. We will never make a subprime mortgage loan here. We stuck to the basics and I think that is what kept First Bank and other community banks out of trouble. We are primarily into commercial lending. We are starting to do more on the consumer side. Our focus has been mainly commercial and we have been actively lending throughout changes in the economy. We had to do a little extra due diligence and dig deeper to make sure our borrowing companies were going to be able to withstand the conditions that were out there. We had no dramatic changes in our game plan but we just tried to focus on what we do well and do it better than the competition. We remained active in the lending arena and kept growing our loan portfolio during the past couple years when many banks remained on the sidelines. We actually have enjoyed some very nice loan growth while maintaining credit quality. The game plan is working.

How has the community fared in general compared to the rest of the country?

Mr. Fitzgerald: New Jersey currently has a higher unemployment rate than the nation as a whole and these conditions have presented challenges. We have a governor in place making some tough calls in terms of trying to balance the budget but there is still work to be done. New Jersey is an attractive place to do business. There are certainly areas of the state that have held up better than others. Our main trade area is the Mercer County area which has held up reasonably well. We do not expect too much help from the economy in the near future. We will have to continue to work hard to execute the business plan. We have a very experienced board of directors and senior management team that know our trade area very well and that helps create opportunities for us.

CEOCFO: Who is your target customer?
Mr. Fitzgerald: Our target customer would be small businesses up to around $20 million in sales. We also look to the professional markets such as accountants and attorneys. We have four branches that are all doing well bringing in deposits for us, getting deposits from the local communities which will enable us to lend money back to small businesses in our market.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your apple pie and ice cream promotion?

Mr. Fitzgerald: We had a “welcome home” theme as part of a marketing initiative to help emphasize the local touch that we like to offer our customers. We have delivered approximately one thousand apple pies to local businesses, a joint effort with our branch managers and lending officers. We did some advertising of that theme as well including some billboard advertising. We feel this campaign was successful and helped distinguish us. The local hometown bank relationship is something that I think people are looking for and our marketing campaign helped us get that message across.

CEOCFO: What is the competitive landscape compared to your fellow local banks?

Mr. Fitzgerald: There are a number of community banks in our market that are doing well and continue to represent strong competition. These banks for the most part stuck to the basics as well. Our competition is more from the community banks than the larger national banks. There has not been much growth in the economy so we have had to take market share away from other banks. As shown by our growth, First Bank has competed very successfully with our competition.

CEOCFO: How do you reach potential customers and why are they coming to you?

Mr. Fitzgerald: We offer access to decision makers. People like being able to pick up the phone and call anyone at the bank, including the president, if they need something done. We offer quick response times, which is what  the market is looking for at the end of the day - somebody they can talk to who is going to understand their business and take care of their needs in the right timeframe. I think First Bank and the community banks in general do that consistently better than many other banks.

CEOCFO: What do you look for in your employees, over and above banking skills, that translates into your customers knowing you will understand their business?

Mr.Fitzgerald: We look for employees who provide empathy rather than bureaucracy – people who will take the extra step to take care of customers. We take the time to meet customers in person to develop an understanding of their businesses. We do not use any type of credit scoring model that some of the larger banks use, which is a system that does not deal with exceptions too well. If there is something different in their business or reasons why they have had a problem in the past year or two, we are in a position to better understand the situation and find a solution to their needs. .

CEOCFO: Are there products or services that you are not offering which you would like to add?

Mr. Fitzgerald: We certainly are trying to keep up to date with technology. I think we have most of the bells and whistles we need to compete with larger banks, such as online banking and remote capture. At this point, we do have the products and services to compete with banks of all sizes.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about community involvement for the bank?

Mr. Fitzgerald: We like to be part of the communities where we have a presence. We encourage our officers to get involved in various local organizations serving on boards of the various not-for-profits. I just talked to an officer who is organizing a golf tournament for the American Cancer Society. That is part of what a community bank is all about. We want to be a vital part of the communities where we live and work. In July, we had a nice employee outing at the Trenton Thunder baseball game, which was a nice change of pace for the employees, and we had a good turnout. We like to think we are doing our part in community relations.

CEOCFO: Do you see the need for additional branches?

Mr. Fitzgerald: We are staying alert to opportunities. There have been a number of branch closings due to consolidation by the larger banks. Some of these sites would be attractive to us. At this stage in our development, one branch a year is probably the right number. Our fourth branch opened up in December of last year. We are very pleased with the growth that branch has had and we would like to choose our next site before the end of the year.

CEOCFO: What is the financial picture like for First Bank today?

Mr. Fitzgerald: We have had a number of profitable quarters in a row. Community banks take some time to get into the black but we have reached that point. Our core earnings continue to be on track and we are pleased with our progress in 2012 year to date. We are experiencing favorable trends in all major categories, including loans and deposits.

CEOCFO: Why should investors pay attention to First Bank?

Mr. Fitzgerald: I believe we have the ingredients for success starting with a very experienced board which includes some experienced bankers. We have a very seasoned senior management team. The Directors and senior management have a proven track record in growing a bank. I believe we have the people and services in place to succeed during any type of economic conditions. We can grow the bank and still keep the local touch. That is a good combination.


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I believe we have the ingredients for success starting with a very experienced board which includes some experienced bankers. We have a very seasoned senior management team. The Directors and senior management have a proven track record in growing a bank. I believe we have the people and services in place to succeed during any type of economic conditions. We can grow the bank and still keep the local touch. That is a good combination. - Paul Fitzgerald does not purchase or make
recommendation on stocks based on the interviews published.