Few changes seen in near future as Harbor bank sold

A change is likely coming to St. Lucie West Boulevard. Harbor Community Bank, at the intersection of Northwest Central Parkway, is slated to become CenterState Bank. The Central Florida community bank recently announced proposed mergers with Harbor and Plant City’s Sunshine Bank.
The proposed mergers would make CenterState the largest community banker in Florida.
Hal Roberts, president of Harbor, said signs and business cards will change, but not much else. Even cosmetic changes are going to take a bit of time if the mergers go through.  “Everything will stay as it is right now until at least February,” Roberts said.
When the mergers are complete, CenterState estimates it’ll have about $8.1 billion in deposits and $6.6 billion in loans. The bank will surpass $10 billion in assets, too. That’s generally counted as the dividing line between a small and large bank.
Harbor’s Mike Brown Sr., chairman, will join CenterState’s board of directors. Roberts will stay for a while as the transition is slowly made.
The mergers are subject to normal state and federal regulatory review and approval, and to stockholder votes. The boards of all three approved them unanimously. If the mergers proceed, CenterState will have a strengthened presence in towns and cities along Interstate 4 between Daytona Beach and Tampa.
Harbor, based in Fort Pierce, has 46 branches spread through 19 counties. It has about $1.6 billion in deposits and $1.9 billion in assets. Sunshine Bank, which started in the mid-1950s, has 18 branches and almost $700 million in deposits.
Roberts said the three have something in common. “The cultures are very similar,” he said. “The style is very similar.”
Some customers have heard about the proposed merger and asked Roberts about it. “There’s concern, obviously,” he said. “We explain (CenterState) is a community bank, just like us. The cultures are very close and (branch employees) are still going to be there.”
The merger is part of a broader recent trend for smaller banks to merge. Some point to regulations implemented after the 2008 economic collapse squeezing bank profits as the reason. In general, the larger an asset base a bank can spread regulatory costs over, the less those costs affect profits.
Roberts said Harbor customers might see an important benefit.
“We’re hopeful it’ll allow us to do larger loans,” he said. “All in all I think it’s going to be a positive event for the customers.”
The St. Lucie West branch, he said, will most likely stay open. “It’s a great market,” Roberts said.

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