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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 23, 2022 2 months ago

East coast bank continues to go big as it grows westward

Stuart-based Seacoast Bank has capped an aggressive period of Gulf Coast expansion with the appointment of veteran Florida banker Tom Lambert as its Tampa market president.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

In era of aggressive consolidation in Florida’s banking industry, Stuart-based Seacoast Bank, with more than $10.8 billion in total assets, has been one of the most active players. Five years ago, it entered the Tampa Bay region with the acquisition of Gulfshore Bank and Northstar Bank, the later in a deal valued at over $30 million. More recently, it extended its reach northward with the buyout of Chiefland-based Drummond Bank and southward with the $53.9 million purchase of Sabal Palm Bank in Sarasota. Seacoast also has a presence in Naples. 

In August, Seacoast Bank welcomed Tom Lambert as its new Tampa market president. Boasting nearly two decades of executive leadership experience with BB&T, now known as Truist, the hiring of Lambert, 58, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, is a major coup for Seacoast as it becomes a statewide financial institution.

The Business Observer recently spoke with Lambert about his decision to join Seacoast, the state of the economy and Florida’s banking sector and how the bank intends to win over customers in the areas where it has expanded. Edited excerpts:


How has working for a regional power like Truist and now a statewide leader like Seacoast been good for your career, and what do you like best about this subsector of the banking industry?

I love working with people and helping to develop teammates. Throughout my career, that’s what gets me up every morning excited to come to work. This is another opportunity to continue to grow. Seacoast is one of the largest community banks headquartered in Florida, and this is such a great state, so why not be part of a bank that’s headquartered here?


How would you characterize the performance of the economy as we emerge from the pandemic?

If you pull back a little bit, from a macro perspective, we’ve been living in uncertain economic times for quite a while. We’re going to continue to see challenges. But what I’ve found throughout my career, particularly over the past 15 years, is that there’s a lot of noise out there in the economy, but from a client's perspective, we sit and listen, we hear what your plan is and we partner with you for the long term. Also, we live in the great state of Florida, so that helps during uncertain times.


It’s notoriously difficult to get someone to switch banks. What is Seacoast’s strategy to attract and retain customers in the areas where it has expanded in recent years?

Part of maintaining long-term relationships with clients is making sure you take care of your employees, and that you create an environment in which they are fulfilled. If you have a lot of turnover, it doesn’t create confidence with your client, and I don't think it creates confidence within the bank. So, we have a very dedicated, focused HR team and a tremendous management team that is truly focused on choosing the right people.


What are some of the key skills and traits you look for in potential Seacoast Bank employees?

We talk a lot about beliefs, behaviors and results. Beliefs generate behaviors. Some people want to manage results, which we think is a little bit backward. If you want to maintain a consistent, long-term, successful plan, you have to bring people together who have the same beliefs. And so, if we start there and create that consistency internally, and then create the depth of knowledge and excitement about doing what we do, clients are going to see that, and I think, long term, that's going to create success.


What’s your stance on the trend of credit unions buying banks in Florida? Is that a concern?

Competition is good for the consumer. There's always going to be competition, so let’s make sure we're doing the right things for our clients and we're doing the right things for our teammates; if we do that, it will all take care of itself, and we’re going to be just fine.

Brian Hartz is the Business Observer’s Tampa Bay editor. He has worked for the publication since 2017. Brian holds a master’s degree in journalism from Indiana University and has been a St. Petersburg resident since 2013. He has also worked for newspapers and magazines in Indiana...

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