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'Capital to Grow'

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 7:29 a.m. April 5, 2013
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Finance
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Local community bank executive Neil McCurry seemingly lives in a parallel universe from his industry brethren.

The evidence: McCurry has scored two major successes since 2007, a six-year period when most of his peers were in survival mode. A number of those peers didn't make it, which makes McCurry's triumphs more remarkable.

The first victory came in January 2007. That's when McCurry sold Sarasota-based People's Community Bank, which he founded in 1999 at 33 years old. McCurry and his team built People's into a $350 million asset bank in eight years, and, in a stroke of good timing, sold it right before the recession. Birmingham, Ala.-based Superior Bancorp bought People's in a deal worth $77 million, or 3.2 times book value. Superior has since failed, and was acquired by what's now Cadence Bank.

The second victory came earlier this year, when McCurry led a $5.6 million capital raise at Sarasota-based Sabal Palm Bank. The offer, at $2 a share, drew so much interest, it oversubscribed by $1.6 million. McCurry is now CEO of the bank, which had $83.3 million in assets through 2012, while Sabal Palm founder Brian Hall will remain president. Both executives will have a seat on the board of the bank, founded in 2006.

The capital raise — which includes $252,000 of McCurry's own money — was to provide funds to grow, not shore up nonperforming loans. “They were well capitalized,” McCurry says, “but they didn't have any capital to grow.”

McCurry spent most of December and January wooing potential investors for Sabal Palm. He was blunt with the prospects: Growing Sabal Palm into a local leader could be a decade-long process, given regulatory and competitive challenges. “This isn't People's Community Bank number two,” McCurry says he told potential investors.

The capital raise nonetheless worked out on several fronts. In addition to oversubscribing, the raise didn't take on any investors who own more than 5% of outstanding shares. So control still rests with the current board. The bank, adds McCurry, also didn't pay any investment advisers to assist with the stock offering.

McCurry attributes the capital raise success to both an improving economy and good old-fashioned networking. “We have a well defined story for how we are going to grow and how we are going to do things,” McCurry says. “We want to bring new energy to the company.”

Sabal Palm currently has two branches, one in Sarasota, near Fruitville Road and Interstate 75, and another one in Venice. The bank has 18 employees, a count McCurry hopes to double within a few years if growth plans come to fruition. One new employee is senior lending officer Rick Halloran, who was a top loan officer and executive for McCurry at People's.

McCurry says he also seeks to diversify Sabal Palm's customer base through adding new products and targeting new potential loan customers. “It's still a people business,” McCurry says. “You have to go out every day and shake hands.”


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