Bank of Central Florida Celebrates 15 Years Of Strong Growth and Vision
ICYMI, March 19th marked Bank of Central Florida’s 15th Birthday.
When Bank of Central Florida first opened its doors 15 years ago, no one expected the economic downfalls that would follow. The Great Recession of 2008 hit just a year later and then after 2020, the world saw the coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the highest inflation rate since 1982.
However, that hasn’t deterred the Bank of Central Florida team, in fact, it may have emboldened them.
Here’s what they’ve accomplished:
- Opening six offices; Downtown Lakeland, South Lakeland, Winter Haven, Plant City, Tampa and Orlando.
- Marking $1 billion in assets in November 2021.
- Planning ‘Vision 2025,’ outlining their path for the future.
- Staying true to their mission to support small businesses and small-business owners.
- Celebrating their 15th anniversary on March 19, 2022.
“Our ability to develop our culture and have the input of our employees as we serve our clients has been rewarding,” said CEO Paul Noris. “We believe if we focus on our employees and put them in the right place to be successful, they will take care of our clients. The most surprising aspect has been the Great Recession and the pandemic, both very stressful events to manage a company through. We believe we have proven ourselves to be steadfast in tough times of change.”
Greg Ruthven, CEO of The Ruthvens, and a bank board member says working with people is where Noris excels.
“The number one thing Paul does better than anyone is people. I think that’s why our bank is successful,” he said.
A Community Bank
Noris said Bank of Central Florida was opened because “we believed there was a need for a locally owned bank to serve the needs of the business community and deliver a meaningful experience to our clients.”
The client-focused bank has done that. “It’s inspiring to go downtown and see a business we helped launch so many years ago,” Noris said. “I am humbled by the community’s open arms toward our institution, from when we first launched to today.”
Ruthven said Bank of Central Florida is a community bank where you know the banker, you know the bank, you know the president. “It’s just so much more customer-oriented. It’s all about the bank and customer service.”
He provided examples of the bank’s focus on its customers:
- It does not charge ATM fees. So if your spouse is shopping at Publix and needs cash, there’s no charge.
- When Target was hacked and criminals gained access to credit card and other personal information, “We called every bank customer with a Target invoice on our credit card and replaced their card. It’s all about knowledge of your customers and their interests, and a community bank can do that.”
Last year, the bank’s stock price went up 17%, Ruthven said. “During COVID, every customer of our bank who applied for the government money got it. Other banks don’t care about Bob and Susie and the mom and pops. Our customers got their stuff done and done on time. We can exceed the customers’ demands. We are financially strong and have excellent leadership.”
Learning over the years
Noris said he’s learned a lot along the way. “The journey over the last 15 years has been amazing. I have a much stronger appreciation for what our business clients manage through when trying to grow their companies. Most importantly, witnessing our clients and employees succeed brings me the most satisfaction.”
The bank’s operating model is based on its ability to grow strong relationships with clients, Noris said. “Our mission is to provide capital to companies and individuals to allow them to meet their professional and personal goals. Our ability to know our clients and have local authority provides the greatest differentiator. In general, larger banks have difficulty building strong relationships because of the sheer number of clients they are dealing with each day.”
Bank of Central Florida doubled its assets in two years, reaching the $1 billion mark near the end of 2021. Noris is proud to say that growth has been organic.
“Most banks accomplish this through acquisition, but we didn’t take that approach,” he said. “Instead, we have simply focused our growth in Polk County until we recently entered Hillsborough County with a highly skilled Tampa Bay team and convenient office location” on West Platt Street in Hyde Park.
The bank’s strategic plan, Vision 2025, includes growth along the all-important and fast-growing Interstate 4 corridor from Tampa to Orlando, while maintaining its headquarters in Lakeland. “Market growth in Central Florida over the next decade will be strong, we expect to benefit from that,” Noris said.
Polk County routinely falls at the top of national rankings when it comes to growth. Its population grew from 602,000 in 2010 to 725,000 in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In addition, in 2021, it placed on the following lists:
- Fastest growing county in Florida, according to the US Census Bureau.
- Third fastest annual job growth rate in the state in the trade, transportation and utilities industries, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
- Fourth best state to start a business, according to WalletHub.
- Fifth best state for manufacturing, according to Site Selection Group.
Noris and his team are ready to work with clients to provide service – and services – they cannot find elsewhere.
“We strongly believe that if we support our community, our clients and our employees, that our company will have success in the long run,” Noris said. “We are committed to doing the right thing and hope that we are a blessing to our community and clients.”