First Bank (FRBA-OTCBB)
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, 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.
First Bank (www.firstbanknj.com) 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."
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published - August 2012
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. .
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
ceocfointerviews.com does not purchase or
recommendation on stocks based on the interviews published.