Longtime Manatee County area banker Charles Conoley — who pointedly took on regulators after a bank he founded in 1998 was shuttered in the recession — has a new job with a new bank.
Conoley was recently named vice president of government guaranteed lending at St. Petersburg-based Freedom Bank. Conoley, according to a statement, will primarily be responsible for growing Freedom's USDA Business and Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program.
An Ohio native whose first job in local banking was with Barnett Bank of Manatee County in 1988, Conoley has significant experience in USDA rural development loans and SBA financing. USDA loans were one of the niches at Bradenton-based Horizon Bank, which Conoley founded in 1998.
Saying the bank was undercapitalized, regulators closed Horizon in 2010, when it had $188 million in assets. Little Rock, Ark.-based Bank of the Ozarks assumed Horizon's assets and most of its deposits.
After the closure, Conoley was one of the rare bankers who spoke out against state and federal banking officials who closed the bank. In an October 2010 interview with the Business Observer, Conoley said the bank was only shuttered because regulators sought to get rid of any community bank that looked shaky so they could be seen as problem-solvers. “I still have a hard time viewing this as a failed bank,” Conoley said at that time. “I view it as a hostile takeover. A very hostile takeover.”
Conoley has kept busy, in banking and other areas, since the end of Horizon. He was a vice president at Bradenton-based Premier Community Bank from 2011 to 2016, and after that he worked a short stint at Florida Capital Bank. He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for a Manatee County School Board seat in 2016.