PNC bank is aggressively pursuing Manatee and Sarasota customers

Special to the HeraldApril 22, 2013 

MANATEE -- PNC bank, an aggressive player in the banking industry, is hoping to attract a bigger share of the competitive Manatee and Sarasota area market by offering mega bank products with old-school service.

PNC, the nation's fifth-largest bank in terms of branches and sixth in deposits and assets, entered the area in 2007. It has been growing rapidly locally and nationwide with its 2008 purchase of National City based in Cleveland, its 2011 purchase of BankAtlantic's Tampa Bay area branches and its 2012 acquisition of RBC bank.

"We have looked to the Southeast to really grow. It's our best opportunity to expand," said Scott Collins, senior vice president of wealth management for PNC in Sarasota.

The bank, which has 10 branches and 150 employees in Manatee and Sarasota counties, already has a strong foothold in the mid Atlantic and Midwest.

"Manatee is very important to us," Collins said. "We look to it for growth."

The Pittsburgh-based regional bank, which has $305 billion in assets, operates in 19 states and has 57,000 employees. It has about 2,900 branches nationwide and 200 in Florida.

Gene Kirsch, senior bank analyst with Weiss Ratings in Jupiter, on the Atlantic coast, described PNC as a "solid player in the industry" and aggressively expanding into Florida, particularly the southwest section of the state.

Weiss gives PNC a "C" rating. "Its asset quality still needs to improve, they still have some bad loans on the books," Kirsch said.

PNC offers an array of services similar to its larger competitors -- Wells Fargo and Bank of America -- including consumer and business banking, corporate banking, wealth management and real estate financing.

Collins thinks combining the services with "an old-school service model" has made PNC successful.

"Every customer is greeted at the door by a team manager," he said. "We try to provide individualized service to each client."

The fastest-growing area for PNC locally is its wealth management division.

"What we like about

Manatee and Sarasota counties is being able to help those people who are building their careers and accumulating assets, and also help people who are retired meet their needs," said Scott Merritt, senior vice president of investments for Florida. "This is a financial healthy population."

The fact that competition in the banking industry here is fierce doesn't deter PNC from pushing for its share of the marketplace, say Merritt and Collins.

"The great part is Florida, and Manatee and Sarasota in particular, are still growing destinations of choice," Merritt said. "We don't have any angst about it."

Collins agrees.

"We believe there is a place for a bank with the highest level of strength in the industry that is also a trusted provider and adviser," he said.

Unlike others that were brought down by heavyinvolvement in subprime lending, PNC was ableto keep debt down andwith its acquisition of RBC and National City has been able to significantly expand its footprint in the Southeast.

"We came through that very cleanly and were able to continue our growth," Collins said. "We were stronger so we were able to buy, and because we were able to buy, we became stronger."

The bank has an emphasis on philanthropic efforts in the communities where it has a presence, he said. Since 2007, PNC has given $100,000 to Manatee and Sarasota nonprofits such as the Oslo Repertory Theatre and United Way. A new nationwide initiative directed at early childhood education will garner about $300 million in financial contributions by PNC. Locally, bank employees will be volunteering at Children First, a Head Start program that serves more than 550 children.

Bank officials also tout their green building initiative. Collins says the company has more LEED-certified buildings -- 118 -- than any other business in the United States.

TheStreet.com has reported that PNC's tangible book value grew from $17.61 in 2007 to almost $45 in 2012 and the company was profitable every year during that period.

Kirsch expects PNC will continue to grow its Florida presence.

"As the economy picks up and the housing market improves, they will continue to move aggressively," Kirsch said.

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