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Front Page » Top Stories » New Coconut Grove Bank Chief May Take Bank New Direction

New Coconut Grove Bank Chief May Take Bank New Direction

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Written by on May 28, 2009

By Zachary S. Fagenson
Any momentum Coconut Grove Bank has had toward more aggressive banking practices may have been slowed — or possibly halted — by the arrival SunTrust executive Robert Coords to run the bank, analysts say.

Mr. Coords, who was most recently chief risk officer for SunTrust Banks, has replaced Daniel C. Eggland as president and CEO.

Mr. Eggland’s future with the bank is still unknown, even to its employees, according to spokesperson Christine Woll.

Although he declined an interview, banking analysts said Mr. Coords’ presence could signal a shift back to the slow, steady growth the bank has been known for since opening in 1926.

"A risk-conscious president will be able to still pursue growth by making sure that the bank’s exposure is limited to acceptable standards," said Emmanuel Roussakis, professor emeritus in the Department of Finance and Real Estate at Florida International University.

"This is a challenging issue, especially during this period of time."

In January, several members of the bank’s board of directors, including Chairman Charles A. Schuette and Vice Chairman J. Hayes Worley Jr., were replaced by members of its founding families.

Mr. Roussakis said Mr. Coords’ entry is a direct result of that management shakeup.

"The [bank's] board of directors identifies the objectives and the goals for the next five years," he said. "The change in the policy from the preceding management was a move that now translates into the hiring of a new president."

Atlanta-based SunTrust, with 1,694 branches and $179.1 billion in assets, is a vastly different institution than Coconut Grove Bank, which maintains $684 million in assets and six branches.

While he was hesitant to speculate on the future of Coconut Grove Bank, Kenneth Thomas, a Miami-based banking consultant and economist, said that difference indicates that the board found a well-qualified candidate to take the reins.

"We have to be careful not to read too much into it because of his background," said Mr. Thomas. "What’s more important than anything is having an experienced person who’s well-known and respected.

"The first question investors and regulators ask is who’s in charge, and they want to make sure they’re very experienced and knowledgeable," he added.

Mr. Thomas mentioned the conservative reputations of Mr. Coords and SunTrust as a possible indicator of how Coconut Grove Bank will grow.

"If you look historically at SunTrust, it’s never been an aggressive bank," he said. "All of the banks that have taken TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money have been under increased scrutiny and all of the sudden the community model is a lot more attractive to people in banking."

SunTrust, however, was told this month by federal regulators to raise an additional $2.2 billion in fresh capital.

And while community banking may provide an escape from the now-tainted world of large financial institutions, it also offers plenty of opportunity.

"A person like [Mr. Coords] has a chance to be a big fish in a small pond," said Douglas Emery, chair of the finance department at the University of Miami’s School of Business Administration. "What you have to ask is, "Would a senior executive at a major bank do better than a president at a smaller bank?’"

The position would be even more attractive, he said, if it offered an equity stake in the institution in addition to increased responsibility and authority.

Mr. Coords, a Wake Forest University graduate, began his banking career in 1970 at Wachovia Bank in Winston-Salem. In 1973, he moved to Flagship Bank in Miami and in 1983 became Flagship successor SunTrust’s president in Miami and later chairman and CEO. He progressed to chairman and CEO of SunTrust Bank, South Florida.

In 2000, he received a promotion to chief efficiency and quality officer of SunTrust Banks based in Atlanta. He became chief risk officer in 2005.

Mr. Coords served on the board of directors of the Sixth Federal Reserve District Miami Branch. He also served as chairman of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and of the Florida International University Foundation Board. Advertisement

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