Covid-19 relief program drives big growth at locally owned bank

Thanks in large part to the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), 2020 turned out to be a record-setting year for Tampa-based First Citrus Bank.

On Monday, in a press release announcing its fourth-quarter financial results, the bank said its year-to-date earnings, at just over $4.9 million, were the highest on record. The fourth quarter was also a record-setting period, with net income of $1.439 million and high levels of new assets, deposits and loans driven largely by the bank’s PPP work.

First Citrus Bank’s total assets increased from $420 million in 2019 to $529 million last year — a rise of 26 percent. Total loan value rose even more sharply, by 30 percent, going from $332 million in 2019 to $432 million in 2020. The bank, in the release, said it made 1,277 PPP loans totaling $110 million, but PPP loan value dropped to $80 million because some borrowers met the loan-forgiveness standards set by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Any time we have a period of economic uncertainty, our company outperforms the industry, typically,” First Citrus Bank President and CEO Jack Barrett said in an interview with the Catalyst. “Covid-19 is certainly one of those periods. We are emotionally stirred to help the underdog. That’s what fills our cup; that’s what brings satisfaction to our jobs; that’s what community banking is all about. And the difference is that we genuinely believe that. When you believe that, it becomes less of a mission and more of a crusade. That’s who we are.”

Despite the economic turmoil of the Covid-19 crisis, some of First Citrus Bank’s loan delinquency rates dropped significantly in 2020. According to the release, the total value of loans delinquent between 30 and 89 days was down to $0.2 million, compared to $0.9 million in 2019. However, the value of loans past due by 90 days or more rose to $3.7 million, a significant uptick from $1.1 million in 2019.

PPP also led to a 37 percent surge in deposits at First Citrus Bank. Total deposits, the release stated, increased from $348 million in 2019 to $475 million in 2020.

“Although 2020 was filled with unprecedented challenges and uncertainty, as the seventh-largest Paycheck Protection Program lender in Florida, we could not be prouder of the way First Citrus bankers responded in helping over 1,250 Tampa Bay small businesses throughout the economic stimulus package,” Barrett stated. “We feel fortunate to turn in our fifth consecutive year of record earnings while surpassing half a billion in assets. Our strategy is working, and we are excited to improve upon our track record of success championing local businesses and families in 2021.”

Barrett, speaking with the Catalyst, said First Citrus Bank is off to a great start in the second round of PPP that opened earlier this month, having already processed more than $50 million in loan applications. “We are also keeping our organic loan pipeline fluid,” he said. “We want to have another record year, whether it’s through PPP or helping people earn higher yields on their liquidity.”

Founded in 1999, First Citrus Bank has four locations in Tampa, one in Brandon and a loan production office in downtown St. Petersburg. In 2019, it won the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business of the Year award. Last year, American Banker magazine named it one of the top five SBA lenders in the Tampa Bay area. Its holding company, First Citrus Bancorporation Inc., trades on over-the-counter (OTC) markets as FCIT.

Click here to view original article in the St. Pete Catalyst.

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