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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 16, 2016 1 year ago

New coast

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After success in Orlando, Seacoast Bank looks west for more growth.
by: Beth Luberecki Contributing Writer

Stuart-based Seacoast Bank first expanded its reach from Florida's east coast when it acquired BankFirst, BMO Harris and Floridian Bank in the Orlando area in recent years. After the success of those moves, a logical next step was the Tampa market, and Seacoast found an ideal entry point this past fall with its planned acquisition of GulfShore Bank.

“The growth and diversity of business in the Tampa region is just tremendous, and we think it's a good fit for who we are,” says Seacoast Chairman and CEO Dennis Hudson.

What proved particularly appealing about GulfShore Bank was its management team and the reputation it had developed. “It's a great group of people who have been serving that market for a number of years and built a very strong small organization,” says Hudson. “They have a demonstrated track record of being able to grow in a really nice, conservative way in that market, and we think with the added capital strength of combining with Seacoast we will be able to continue that process as things move forward.”

Members of that management team, including Joe Caballero, GulfShore's president and CEO, and Ed O'Carroll, GulfShore's executive vice president and COO, will be staying on as the bank joins the Seacoast fold. That's made the transition a smooth one, says Hudson.

“The key to any integration and transition like this is is there a cultural fit,” he says. “Probably the greatest strength of the two organizations is that they have very similar and aligned cultures.”

GulfShore Bank, founded in 2007, operates two branches in Tampa and one in St. Petersburg. It boasts 55% of total deposits in transaction accounts, like basic checking or savings accounts.

Directors of both banks approved the acquisition, which is expected to close in the first quarter, following regulatory approvals and the approval of GulfShore's shareholders. The acquisition will add about $332 million in assets, $279 million in deposits and $253 million in loans to Seacoast's portfolio, bringing Seacoast's total assets to approximately $4.8 billion.

Seacoast Bank was founded in the 1920s and is now one of the largest community banks headquartered in Florida, with 47 traditional branches and five commercial banking centers stretching from Fort Lauderdale to Daytona Beach, west into central Florida and now Tampa.

Seacoast decided the time was right to enter the Tampa market after the success it's had in the Orlando area over the past several years. It has seen its Orlando-area staff jump from 25 employees to more than 100 and has grown its customer base there significantly. Seacoast says it's now a top 10 bank in market share in Orlando and the No. 1 Florida-based bank in that market.

It hopes to do the same kind of thing in the Tampa area, where GulfShore Bank has about 40 employees. “We'd like to see that grow over the next couple of years pretty dramatically as we grow the business and see how we can serve the community in Tampa and St. Pete,” says Hudson. “The Tampa market is a tremendously vibrant, deep market we've been admiring for some time. The timing was right in terms of where we see the economy with the growth potential
that exists throughout Florida. We're operating in a very attractive economy in Florida in some of the best growth markets in the state.”

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