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Banker seeks to get back to the life

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  • | 7:55 a.m. December 17, 2012
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Neil McCurry likes to tell the story of how he worked 500 days in a row when he founded People's Community Bank in Sarasota in 1999.

Then 33, McCurry worried he would be outdone by all the local bankers with many years more experience. So he decided to outwork everyone. The strategy was successful: McCurry built People's into a profitable entity, and within five years the bank was a local leader.

McCurry might need to dip back into his outdo-everyone bag with his latest venture, where he will team up with Sarasota-based Sabal Palm Bank on a $4 million capital raise. The challenge there is acute: Community banks have struggled to raise capital in the past few years — no surprise considering the recession and the squeeze it's put on banks.

The good news for McCurry is Sabal Palm, founded in 2006 by Brian Hall, doesn't have any lingering capital or non-performing loan issues. The capital raise, instead, is for potential growth and loan opportunities at the bank, which had $82 million in assets through Sept. 30.

Hall believes Sabal Palm missed out on some loans over the past nine months because it lacked capital. “The thing we want to do,” Hall tells Coffee Talk, “is get more capital so we can grow faster.”

Hall turned to McCurry about a year and a half ago. The pair, over lunch, discussed the local market. McCurry also talked about his desire to get back into the industry. McCurry was at the helm of People's in 2007, when Superior Bancorp bought it in a $77 million deal. Birmingham, Ala.-based Superior, which regulators shut down in 2011, paid 3.2 times book value for People's — an above average premium for the time.

McCurry consulted with Superior, and worked on some bank-owned real estate projects the past few years. But he missed the day-to-day. Says McCurry: “Banking is what I know and love.”

McCurry's arrangement with Sabal Palm is to recruit investors, at a minimum of $50,000 at $2 a share, through the middle of January. McCurry will be named CEO of the bank, and get a seat on the board, if the raise reaches at least $4 million. Hall will stay on the board and be president.

After that, McCurry, back to People's, has fast-growth goals. He thinks the bank can surpass $100 million in assets in a year, and be at $150 million within three years. “They are big goals,” says McCurry, “but reasonable.”


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