Island-based bank keeps doing better and better
Marine Bank & Trust customers might've noticed the smile Bill Penney wears to work these days.
"It's fun again,"said Penney, the president and CEO of the Beachland Boulevard-based bank. "We're doing very well."
So well, in fact, that Marine announced last week record earnings, strong asset growth and its 10th consecutive quarter of profitability, with Penney attributing the gains to an improving local real-estate market, a drop in the county's unemployment rate and an increase in deposit accounts.
The bank's earnings through the first half of this year totaled $542,000, an increase of $86,000 when compared to the first six months of last year. After first-quarter earnings jumped from $173,000 in 2014 to $250,000 in 2015, second-quarter earnings rose from 283,000 to $292,000.
Also, Marine enjoyed significant growth in total assets over the past 12 months – from $151 million on June 30, 2014, to $172 million on June 30 this year.
"I always knew that, given a decent economy, we could do well as a local bank," Penney said. "It's so rewarding for me to look at all the residential loans we've done and see how many people we've put into homes. And as the housing market continues to improve, we are increasing the number of home loans we make.
"We've said all along: It's our goal to be Vero's leading mortgage lender."
Penney said small-business loans, too, have contributed to Marine's success by helping create jobs and building new banking relationships in the community.
"It's also rewarding to see how the loans we've made to local small businesses have helped put people back to work," he said. "When you help small business, you're helping people get jobs, and that helps the entire community.
"That's the feel-good part of what we do."
It wasn't too long ago, however, that Penney's smile was hard to find as he spent two years embroiled in a legal battle with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to save the locally headquartered bank.
In 2011, the FDIC charged Marine with unsafe and unsound banking practices as it struggled to cope with the collapse of the Florida real-estate market.
The FDIC alleged that Marine had an "excessive volume of poor quality loans," was operating "with insufficient capital in relation to the kind and quality of assets held by the bank" and lacked sufficient diversity in its investments.
Penney successfully fended off the charges in federal court, where, if he had failed, a judge likely would've forced Marine to close or sell to a larger bank.
"Can we finally put that to bed?" Penney said. "We've moved on."
Perhaps so, but the bank's resurgence in the wake of the FDIC case not only has been a rousing success story, but it also has vindicated the man in charge.
"We're very proud of what we've accomplished at the bank," Penney said. "I've got a great team here, and we have a community that wants and supports a local bank."
At a time when some large banks are eliminating their drive-thru service and encouraging customers to bank electronically, Penney said Marine, chartered in 1997, still prefers to do business face to face.
Or at least through a window.
"We like giving out the dog treats and giving candy to the kids," he said. "We like that personal connection with our customers."