When Tom Lambert joined Seacoast Bank as Tampa market president in summer 2022, it had been an era of expansion for the $15 billion-asset Stuart-based bank.
In 2017, Seacoast acquired Gulfshore Bank and Northstar Bank, both based in Tampa.
Later, in 2022, Seacoast spotted a bank along the Nature Coast, Drummond Bank in Citrus County, and acquired it. That same year, it also bought Sabal Palm Bank in Sarasota.
It seemed clear the entire Gulf Coast was a priority for Seacoast's M&A plans. Along the Gulf Coast, Seacoast has eight branches in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. It has another branch in Naples.
Then came increasing national interest rates, and the varying national predictions of a soft recession, a "soft landing," or no recession at all. (Banking giant Goldman Sachs recently put the chance of a recession within 12 months at 15%.) Lambert acknowledges Seacoast has taken a bit of "breather" from M&A for now.
"I think we're represented well within the state," says Lambert, a veteran of Florida banking who worked at BB&T (now Truist) before joining Seacoast. "We're Florida's bank."
Lambert is referring to Seacoast's long history in the Sunshine State, which started in South Florida in 1926. Seacoast Bank's footprint now stretches from Miami to Jacksonville back to Tampa and Naples.
And Lambert says he is happy with the CEO and board's direction, and says opportunities will not be turned away. Mainly, Lambert speaks today of wealth management and customer support.
Seacoast Bank is hearing a lot of talk from clients about "margin compression," if not shrinking revenues, he says. And there is talk of higher interest rates. That affects residential buying.
"Although we have seen a slowdown, this is Florida," says Lambert. "We are blessed to be in Florida. People are continuing to come to this state."
That consistent stream of net migration and steady tourism bolsters Florida, he says.
Seacoast also focuses on clients who have money to manage. Lambert says he has great pride in the Tampa market's wealth management team, which he says is one of the best in Florida.
They have gone to work to help the Tampa Bay's market clientele — which Lambert says is already well established — to help improve cash flow during a time of economic squeezes such as higher costs.
"My wealth team is the best one I've worked with," says Lambert. "It's the same as if we're talking about on the commercial side. It's getting to know the clients and making sure were asking all the right questions, from a family and a wealth perspective."
Lambert says trusts and generational giving are issues the wealth department raises, he says. And the expertise tapped is sometimes legal, Lambert says, something he says is especially necessary in trusts.
"We have numerous attorneys on staff," says Lambert. "It's making sure we are asking all the right questions and we are positioning you correctly."
Lambert says wealth management plans today could change in five years, something Seacoast is ready to do.
As of June 30, Seacoast Bank had $15 billion in assets, up from $10.8 billion on June 30, 2022. It has $12.3 billion in deposits, up from $9.2 billion in deposits on June 30, 2022.