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Business Outlook 2006

Small banks secure their share of market

In the shadow of SunTrust/Nature Coast, other banks compete with the appeal and attention of smaller institutions.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN
Published February 19, 2006


For decades, SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast has operated in Hernando County with the domineering force of a 900-pound gorilla.

But as the county has boomed in recent years with new residents and businesses, several smaller banks have taken root as well.

Many of those banks saw their businesses expand in 2005, and they're hoping to grow even more in 2006.

Of course, SunTrust is still the bank of choice for most county residents. According to June figures from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., SunTrust had a 45.99 percent market share in Hernando, just more than twice as much as second-place Bank of America.

Still, SunTrust's market share had dipped slightly, according to federal figures. It had a 46.66 percent market share in June 2004.

In that same time period, other institutions, such as Cortez Community, Hernando County and Capital City banks, have seen their market shares increase. Bank executives said many newcomers to Hernando County like depositing their money in smaller banks that sometimes offer more personal services than larger ones.

Consider the treatment customers get at Cortez Community Bank in Brooksville, for example.

Cortez president and chief executive officer Don Page guarantees customers that the phone at the bank won't ring more than three times and that it will be answered by "a real person."

Cortez also goes beyond traditional banking hours, staying open until 6 p.m. Fridays and Saturday mornings as well.

Page said Cortez also recently purchased land at Linden and Spring Hill drives for a new Spring Hill branch. The company's market share more than doubled from June 2004 to June 2005, increasing from from 0.66 percent in 2004 to 1.44 percent in 2005.

"We've exceeded our expectations," Page said.

Why?

"We're locally owned," he said. "We can make all our decisions at this level."

Cortez isn't the only smaller bank to see its market share rise.

Hernando County Bank's market share inched up from 2.34 percent to 2.42 percent during the same time period. Capital City Bank saw its market share rise from 1.29 percent to 1.35 percent.

David Donato, community president for Capital City Bank in Pasco and Hernando counties, said it's no secret that the county's growth should increase competition.

"(Hernando) is just a very vibrant area," Donato said. "People are moving in from both the north and the south."

In fact, he said, Capital City has designated Hernando as one of its five key markets for growth in Florida.

The bank is expanding in part by appealing to people who want more out of their bankers than automation. Donato said many of his employees have lived in Hernando for 15 years or more. He said customers want to trust the people who handle their money.

"What they look for is . . . the one-on-one connection," he said."

The bank has two locations in Hernando. Will there be more in the future?

Count on it, Donato said.

Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 352 848-1431.

[Last modified February 19, 2006, 01:08:19]


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