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Banking executive's Pasco ties are revived

A bank buyout links Kendall Spencer, once active in community groups, to the area again.

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 31, 2002

Typically, when local banks are gobbled up by large out-of-towners, there's worry that the bank's personal touch and community involvement will vanish.

But South Financial Group's recent buyout of Mercantile Bank has gotten a widely respected community leader involved in Pasco's banking industry again.

Kendall Spencer, who headed Barnett Banks' Pasco operations for four years, now oversees retail banking for South Financial Group, the Greenville, S.C.-based company that recently agreed to buy the parent of Mercantile Bank, which has two branches here in Pasco.

During Spencer's 4-year tenure in Pasco, Barnett's profits grew from $8-million to $13-million. But he was just as well-known for his entrenchment in community organizations.

Spencer served on the boards of All Children's Hospital Foundation, the Salvation Army and the West Pasco YMCA. He was fundraising campaign director for the United Way and president of the Pasco Committee of 100.

Though Spencer will remain stationed at his Jacksonville and Greenville offices, he says he's happy to have a Pasco County connection again.

"I'm excited about getting back involved with the people I knew and did business with in the past," he said Friday.

Spencer, 49, left Pasco in 1997 for Jacksonville to direct Barnett's small business banking operations. He stayed on when Barnett was acquired by NationsBank in 1998.

In June 1998, he tried his hand at early retirement, but after two years of all the fishing and golfing he could stand, Spencer was restless. In February 2000, he joined Orlando-based Citrus Bank, which had recently been acquired by South Financial. He quickly moved up the ladder to his current position, executive vice president and director of retail banking for the $6-billion company.

When South Financial started talking to Mercantile months ago, Spencer was downright giddy about working with his former colleagues from Barnett, both at Mercantile and scattered at other banks throughout Pasco County.

"All during the negotiations I was hoping it was going to happen; I was looking forward to being able to get back into the Pasco market," he said. "It was hard to keep quiet."

He expects Mercantile to maintain its deep community involvement under South Financial, and also hopes to get involved where he can, even if it just means the occasional excuse to drive down to the Chasco Fiesta or the Cowboy Christmas Ball.

"I'm excited about it," he said. With a chuckle, he jokes, "I hope that folks haven't forgotten me."

-- Jennifer Goldblatt covers business in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6229, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6229. Her e-mail address is

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