By Danielle Dodder
Four seemingly brief years ago federal agencies were making quiet forays onto the island to transition troubled banks out of existence. Today, an island 17.1 square miles big boasts ten, soon to be eleven banks, once Chase opens its branch on February 26th. That’s one bank for slightly less than every half mile.
A population of 16,000 permanent residents that swells by about another 15,000 in season presents a unique mix of banking needs, according to Tiffany Homuth, market president of Mutual of Omaha Bank. Techies would happily conduct all banking transactions on their smartphone, older folks require teller interactions, and out-of-towners want to recognize a branch of the national bank from ‘home.’
Chase is the latest branch to stake out a claim on Marco. It’s part of a larger strategy to increase market share in Collier County. “Marco and the Naples area are important markets for us,” says Chase representative Mabel Ferrer. She adds that the Marco branch will have, along with the standard drive-through lanes and other full service branch amenities, “next generation” ATM kiosks that allow clients to conduct a wider range of transactions there. Chase is also the tech leader for smart phone banking, including apps to scan deposits and wire money directly from phones. But the biggest bank in the US (it boasts over 1 trillion in total deposits) can’t be guaranteed an automatic lead in market share on quirky Marco, where the culture of community banking retains a firm foothold.
Mutual of Omaha Bank sits squarely in the middle of the market share pack, according to the FDIC website, inbetween many a commercial bank with a much bigger portfolio. The reason, says Homuth, is that human to human transactions still have a key role to play in banking, and being part of the community makes a difference. Most of the management and many bank staffers at Mutual of Omaha Bank live on the island as well as work there. They serve on boards and committees and sponsor or volunteer at community events. When corporate management wanted to raise bank card fees, Homuth knew her clients well enough to know they would be infuriated, and she successfully lobbied against the fee at her branch. “Your management has to want you to be a community bank.” Like many other ‘old’ tech experiences (including newspapers) keeping the experience from going virtual has a penalty at the bottom line: fixed costs. “Our overhead is not cheap.”
Tom Wagor has a 24 year career in banking on Marco. He’s seen all the ups and downs, and points out that the culture of speculation that drove many banks to disaster in 2008 has been alive and well here since the days of Deltona. “Every vacant lot on this island has been flipped about five times.” Today, he says, the trend is moving towards second homes with the end goal of making them permanent, a more stable source of growth. “Real estate on Marco Island, along with most of Coastal Florida, cannot be developed any further, keeping it at a premium…there are also many very well-run, profitable businesses here.” All these factors, he believes, will keep banking on Marco attractive.
Wagor is the president of First National Bank on the Gulf, formerly Royal Palm Bank of Florida. He plans to follow through at First National with the community banking philosophy he’s used throughout his career, because he believes the results translate into benefits for both the community where his lives and the bank’s shareholders.
“We don’t sell our loans to secondary holders and we make all our decisions locally.” Wagor believes you build the branch, “but you do it in the right way.” That way includes promoting a good work-life balance for his employees because, he says, “if your family life is happy, you are more effective at work.” He and his staff sponsor and volunteer for island community needs. “It does circle back; banking is not just a transaction.”
Banking Around Marco
Fifth Third Bank –
Three locations • 800 North
Collier Blvd. 239-389-5355
• 650 E. Elkam Circle
239-389-1800 • 1818 San Marco Road 239-394- 7737
Bank of America – 614 Bald Eagle Drive 239-642-6565
Iberiabank – 605 Bald Eagle Drive 239-393- 2400
Wells Fargo Bank – 1090 North Collier Blvd. 239-389-3000
Mutual of Omaha Bank – 1770 San Marco Road 239-389- 5200
Suntrust Bank – 950 North
Collier Blvd. 239-642-4187
BMO Harris Bank – 800 North Collier Blvd. Suite 109
Regions Bank – 606 Bald Eagle Drive 239-642-4455
Centennial Bank – 615 East Elkam Circle 239-259-1462
First National Bank of the Gulf Coast – 690 Bald Eagle Drive