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Business Observer Wednesday, Mar. 25, 2020 6 months ago

Fast-moving financial crisis demands decisive action: banker

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The coronavirus pandemic represents a time for banks to show steady leadership, David Druey says.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

Banks, credit unions and other financial institutions haven’t been hit as hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as bars and restaurants, but for David Druey, Centennial Bank’s Florida regional president, the virus presents a host of challenges. 

First and foremost, banks’ leadership is being challenged. Druey, who’s based in Pompano Beach but travels all over the Sunshine State to oversee the Arkansas-based bank’s operations, says he has no choice but to be “reactive” to the rapidly evolving public health crisis, which has quickly spiraled into an economic catastrophe. 

“It’s not going to sound very good, but it’s the truth,” Druery says. 

Making a decision, even if it has to be adjusted later, is better than taking no action at all. The latter approach creates a vacuum that leaves customers and staff bereft of information and direction. 

“For instance, over the weekend, the Fed dropped rates a hundred basis points,” Druey says. “Well, on Friday, I made decisions based on that not occurring, so I had to make new decisions on Monday based on what occurred. You have to be able to be fluid in what decisions you make and make the best decisions as of today.” 

Druey says Centennial’s branches with drive-thru banking remain open as usual, but if customers would like to do business in the lobby, they have to call ahead for an appointment. Branches without drive-thru service are also open, with access by appointment only. 

Valley Bank President and CEO Ira Robbins. Courtesy photo.

Centennial Bank has not laid anyone off and doesn’t expect to, with the exception of 15 university students in Arkansas who lost part-time jobs when their on-campus housing shut down, and they were forced to move out of the area. 

Centennial has also deferred all loan payments for 90 days for customers who qualify. Many other lenders, including New Jersey-based Valley Bank — which has a robust presence in the Tampa Bay area thanks to its acquisition of Clearwater-based USAmeriBank — have followed suit. Valley, in a news release, says it has also increased debit and credit card limits and stocked ATMs with greater amounts of cash. It’s also boosted loan limits for eligible consumer and commercial lending customers, among other emergency initiatives. 

“We are already seeing how the new coronavirus is impacting the lives of people and businesses we serve in our communities,” Valley Bank President and CEO Ira Robbins states in the release. “As a partner in our communities, we’re not just going to stand on the sidelines. We’re right here with our customers, and we’re going to be there to help them through this crisis.” 

(This article has been updated to clarify that Centennial Bank will defer loan payments for clients who qualify for such action, not all loan payments.) 

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