Banks in Florida face another challenging year
BRADENTON: At first, it looked like 2009 would be the worst year for the banking industry. And at the time it was. The 140 bank failures of 2009 were the most in 17 years.
But then came 2010, bringing 157 bank failures to date, of which 29 were in Florida. And bank analysts said the pace of failures will continue to be high in 2011 as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. has 860 banks on its "Problem List."
"Certainly, banks are still mired in a lot of what's been going on in the last couple years with the economy," said Karen Dorway, president of BauerFinancial Inc., a Coral Gables bank rating firm. "The Florida market is still one of the more challenging markets. There's still a lot of non-performing loans left on their books."
Local banks say they are closely monitoring asset quality to keep federal and state regulators pleased.
Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida, based in Sarasota, kept a close eye on assets and stuck to diligent underwriting practices since it opened nearly three years ago.
The bank reported total assets of $146.9 million for the third quarter ended Sept. 30, and has a four-star rating from BauerFinancial. But Shaun Merriman, president of Gateway, says it has been a daunting task.
"It's been quite challenging because the economy is still not out of this recession," Merriman said. "We still see small business owners, consumers and various industries still struggling here locally."
At First America Bank, President Allen Langford says the Palmettobased bank has seen residential and commercial loans pick up. But unemployment is preventing a speedier recovery to lending in Manatee and Sarasota counties, he noted. -PB News