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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 15, 2017 1 year ago

Charge It Up

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First National Bank of Pasco is going gangbusters on a growth strategy that includes some unlikely banking concepts. Think coolness. And electric cars.
by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

“Cool” isn't a term often associated with banking.

But the concept of “cool” is one way First National Bank of Pasco hopes to build new relationships, establish more accounts and generate revenue.

That's the thinking behind the bank's electric cars and electric vehicle charging stations. It has two electric cars now for bank business and its courier service, and it has charging stations at its Dade City and Zephyrhills locations. There are also plans for charging stations at the bank's Lutz location, scheduled to open in December.

First National Bank of Pasco, with $152 million in assets through June 30, is partnering with Jarrett Ford on the initiative, dubbed Partners in Innovation. Bank President and CEO Steven Hickman says the alternative transportation will help the bank move into the future. “Why not be able to come to the bank, do your business, charge your car up and drive away with a full battery?” It's about the “optics of what an innovative company does,” he says.

Those optics, hope bank officials, will help with a coveted demographic: millennials.

The electric additions, Hickman says, are “part of an overall strategy of what the millennial marketplace demands.” That includes virtual banking products and something more traditional — faith. “They still want someone they can trust,” he says. “Someone they can come in and talk to.”

That's one of the benefits of banking with a smaller institution, he says. “Smaller ones tend to be more consultants with our clients,” he adds. “Larger banks tend to be more, 'This is how we do it.'”

It's not all about millennials, though. “We think we have the ability as a small bank to reach across all the different spectrums of age groups or cultures,” Hickman says. That includes everyone from baby boomers and Generation X to millennials and Generation Z. “We're not just interested in one group,” says Hickman.

The average age of the bank's retail consumer in east Pasco, for example, is 70. “We're not going to ignore those folks. We're going to continue to provide them a high-quality banking product,” says Hickman.

First National has entered a prime period for customer growth, given it's now the only community bank in the county with a Pasco headquarters. It picked up that distinction in late August, after Birmingham, Ala.-based National Commerce Corp. completed its merger with Pasco-based Patriot Bank.

Hickman says the last-community-bank-standing designation doesn't affect First National's strategy. The bank's short-term plan will stay the same — expand beyond its current branch footprint. In addition to the Lutz branch under construction now, the bank is also considering areas such as Trinity, Brandon and Lithia for future locations.

Long term, Hickman says the strategy is to see the bank's balance sheet continue to grow, securing more than $200 or $250 million in assets.

In addition to demographics, the bank, to grow, also plans to do some non-bank things. At the new location in Lutz, it plans to host events such as wine tastings, elementary school student contests and events with restaurateurs. “What is innovative is a bank getting more and more partnerships with other companies,” Hickman says, “not just going it alone.”

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