A collaboration between two St. Petersburg-based financial firms — Dynasty Financial Partners and First Home Bank —helped protect jobs at businesses and organizations nationwide.
Dynasty put the investment advisors it serves, as well as those advisors’ clients, in touch with bankers at First Home to get loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal program designed to provide economic assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Together, we helped a nonprofit school for special needs kids, a garage, several restaurants, kids’ summer camps, a seafood market, landscaping companies, elder care facilities,” and others get PPP loans, said Shirl Penney, CEO of Dynasty. “These were people who were frustrated that they were not getting responsiveness or service levels from their current bank. First Home Bank was able to be helpful.”
For First Home Bank, already one of the top 10 Small Business Administration lenders nationwide, PPP was an initiative to build its brand, known as CreditBench Powered by First Home Bank, and a dedicated effort to get new clients.
“Many banks chose to only do business with their own client base. We went a little bit against the grain, and said let’s open our doors and use it as a means to building not only PPP business but great relationships in Tampa Bay,” said Jeff Hunt, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at First Home Bank.
As of Wednesday, First Home Bank had approved nearly 9,500 total loans, totaling $901.8 million and designed to preserve 103,990 jobs. The bank’s balance sheet has grown from about $550 million in total assets to $1.5 billion, strengthening its position as one of the largest community banks in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.
Dynasty, which provides wealth management and technology platforms for independent financial advisory firms, started to get calls from the registered investment advisors it serves when PPP was announced, Penney said. Those advisors were hearing from their own clients that they were not getting a response from the large banks with which many of them did business.
“Our clients came to us and said their clients were trying to figure out how to apply. What are the guidelines and what’s the process? And they needed a bank that can be more responsive and navigate and help them connect with the SBA to get the loan,” Penney said.
Dynasty researched SBA lenders and was “pleasantly surprised” to find First Home Bank, headquartered at 700 Central Ave., just blocks from Dynasty’s headquarters at 200 Central. Penney reached out to Hunt and Tony Leo, First Home’s CEO, and they worked with Dynasty to put together a scalable program.
“I took a couple of my employees, and got them trained on the basics of the PPP program. We put together an overview sheet, kind of a frequently asked questions, that we could give to our advisors and they could give to their clients. And then we created, in partnership with First Home Bank, direct connectivity to their loan portal so that our advisors could leverage it,” Penney said.
Harris Baltch, head of Dynasty Capital Strategies, was in touch almost daily with Tom Zernick, president of SBA lending at First Home Bank.
“When I talked to Harris early on, one of his biggest concerns was he wanted to deal with a local bank that had an already established loan processing backroom and would give a high-touch experience for the client,” Zernick said. “Harris looked at our ranking report and saw that we were doing almost 1,000 SBA loans a year, and decided he wanted to partner with somebody with an established track record with the SBA and could give great customer service. I think we gave the Dynasty clients just that experience.”
Technology played a key role for First Home Bank.
“After the first day, our data base blew up because of the application volume. We said we will not be able to do this without technology,” Zernick said. “We partnered with a technology platform that that provided us with a robotics solution to be able to do some of the processing. It’s integrated with our database and we able to track on a daily basis where every one of those applications was, whether in processing or underwriting or documentation or funding so we could keep an eye on the thousands of applications we were taking in.”
The new technology will launch First Home Bank into 7(a) SBA lending, as the bank looks to re-open that lending program.
First Home Bank, already an SBA powerhouse, also wants to grow its community banking division. The bank has six branches with two more coming on line soon.
“We’re looking to grow deposits, grow our asset size and become the bank of Tampa Bay,” Zernick said.
PPP was “a giant vitamin shot” for outreach to the community, Hunt said.
Collaboration between St. Petersburg companies in the same industry is a big part of the aim of Grow Smarter, the local economic development strategy with a focus on equity.
“Anyone who thinks this national level of capability doesn’t exist in St. Petersburg just hasn’t done the legwork to see what’s possible. This is an example of it,” Penney said.
There’s also a sense of camaraderie that might not happen elsewhere, he said.
“While Dynasty is growing rapidly and we are a decent size business, at $50 billion we’re still in our adolescence in some ways, so our ability if we’re sitting in New York to find a bank to move quick and get behind our clients would be more challenging versus being able to virtually walk up the street and strike such a unique partnership,” Penney said. “The partnership came together so naturally … We said let’s get to work and help each other out. I think that’s one of the benefits of doing business in a smaller city, like St. Pete, where it’s easier to navigate things and where people truly want to be helpful to their peers in the local community.”
Dynasty itself received a $1.3 million PPP loan through First Home Bank.
The decision that was not made lightly, Penney said, but was based on the deterioration the company saw in revenue for the second quarter of 2020. No one was traveling, so the revenue from events Dynasty sponsored didn’t come through. Many advisors were focused on taking care of existing clients instead of launching own firms, another new revenue delay. Billing was also off in Q1 with the market being significantly lower.
With revenue down, PPP was a prudent move on behalf of Dynasty’s employees, he said.
“Any business has to look at cost, and a part of cost is people. We had just moved into a new community and before the impact of COVID, we hired rapidly in the first quarter. So we thought for the benefit of those people, we should take the loan, use it entirely as designed – to protect payroll for the staff — so that I could go to my team and regardless what happens over the course of 2020, your job is secure,” Penney said.
Dynasty has not yet repaid its loan. Penney wants to see what happens over the course of the next year.
“If the number of [COVID] cases continues to decline and business gets back to normal and the market continues to do well, we may make a decision at that point to pay it back with interest,” Penney said. “If things go south and we need it to keep people employed and not make any cuts that a well-run business might make in a declining environment, it will allow us to not have to make that decision.”
The deadline to apply for a PPP loan has been extended to Aug. 8, and First Home Bank is still taking applications.
Here are the bank’s numbers on PPP lending as of Wednesday:
Total Approvals (US):
103,990 jobs positively impacted
Loans funded (US):
93,975 jobs positively impacted
Additional stats related to the funded loans:
34,180 jobs positively impacted
Tampa Bay Area:
24,461 jobs positively impacted
• Average loan size in Tampa Bay Area: $110,000
• 40 percent of the loans funded were for under $25,000
• 90 percent of funded loans were less than $250,000
• Over 88 percent of the loans funded have been to businesses with 25 or fewer employees