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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 20, 2019 5 months ago

Steady presence: Bank sees big opportunity in upheaval

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Inspired by rapid consolidation in the community banking sector, TD Bank moves to capitalize on customer uncertainty.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

The region's banking landscape has shifted wildly in recent years. 

Among the newer names are Bank OZK (formerly known as Bank of the Ozarks) and Valley National Bank. Bank OZK bought St. Petersburg-based C1 Bank, while Valley acquired Clearwater-based USAmeriBank. C1 and USAmeriBank were two of the largest banks in the Tampa region. 

Credit unions have added to the upheaval. Dunedin-based Achieva Credit Union, for one, made a huge move when it bought Lee County’s Preferred Community Bank for $118 million. Lakeland-based MidFlorida Credit Union also bought a couple of banks — Community Bank & Trust and First American Bank of Iowa — in 2019. 

Some big banks, by contrast, are seen as marks of consistency among the industry turbulence. 

“It’s a public service announcement for us,” says Nick Miceli, TD Bank’s metro Florida regional president. “The reality is, it’s not fun to change banks. It’s terrible, whether you’re a small business, a large business or a nonprofit. It’s a lot of work. Stability is important … moments of uncertainty allow us to bring new clients to the bank.”

"Small business portfolios become very loyal portfolios because they remember when you gave them a chance, when you believed in them, when you believed their story." Nick Miceli, TD Bank’s metro Florida regional president.

Miceli, 53, a 22-year veteran of TD Bank who came to Florida two years ago, thinks customer uncertainty, brought on by consolidation fatigue, presents the bank with an opportunity to significantly grow its market share in the Tampa Bay region. But in a market that’s already saturated with all of the other big national banks, a proactive approach is necessary.

In other words: New Jersey-based TD Bank N.A., a subsidiary of Canada’s Toronto-Dominion Bank, will have to prove that its brand of bigger is better.

The bank has begun that effort by swinging for the fences, striking a five-year naming-rights deal with the Toronto Blue Jays that will see the Major League Baseball team’s spring training home in Dunedin renamed TD Ballpark. It’s a savvy marketing move that capitalizes on the bank’s status as one of the leading financial institutions in both the U.S. and Canada, as well as the Blue Jays’ longstanding affiliation with Dunedin — the team has held spring training in the northern Pinellas County city continuously since 1977, drawing hordes of Canadian snowbirds every February and March.

“We’re doubling down with the Blue Jays,” Miceli says, declining to disclose financial terms of the bank’s deal with the team. “It helps us continue to be a big part of the community, and I think we will see new clients become part of the TD family.”

TD Bank, with 163 branches in Florida, has also made SBA lending a key part of its growth strategy. Although it’s the eighth-largest bank in the U.S., it ranks No. 1 in SBA lending in its mostly East Coast geographical footprint, which stretches from Maine to Florida.

In the Sunshine State, the bank made 665 SBA loans totaling $81.82 million between Oct. 1, 2018, and Sept. 30 this year. That’s more than any other state where TD Bank does business.

“Small business portfolios become very loyal portfolios because they remember when you gave them a chance, when you believed in them, when you believed their story,” Miceli says. “We're very good at listening and understanding people’s stories.”

SBA lending, Miceli adds, is part of TD Bank’s strategy to “bring the entire bank” to a small business owner. “We’re not just focused on loans,” he says. “We can also look at their personal finances, look at ways we can help them, whether it’s saving for college tuition or saving for retirement.”

Taking the worry out of entrepreneurs’ personal finances, he says, “enables small businesses to become large businesses.”

The challenge for TD Bank, however, is exposure. Miceli acknowledges the bank needs greater visibility if it’s going to go toe-to-toe with big rivals, such as Chase, Regions and Bank of America. To that end, in addition to the Blue Jays deal, it has opened up four new branches in the latter half of 2019, in Clearwater, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs. The branches, a counterintuitive move given how most banks are scaling back on brick and mortar, have been a success. 

“It’s amazing to see the response that we’re getting from the public as we’re opening up these stores,” Miceli says. “We couldn’t be more thrilled. We’re not just a bank that puts our name up on a billboard. We sit elbow to elbow in front of our clients, hearing their concerns and finding solutions.”

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