Change at the top signals shift for Regions Bank in South Florida
By Zachary S. Fagenson
The banker Birmingham, AL-based Regions Bank selects as its new South Florida president will probably be a local player experienced in commercial lending, industry analysts say.
Angel Medina Jr., who served as Regions' top South Florida executive since 2006, announced he would be stepping down from the post by month's end. He was previously the bank's president for Miami-Dade County. He joined Union Planters Bank, which Regions would later purchase, as executive vice president for strategic planning in April 2000.
In an e-mail to Miami Today, Mr. Medina said he decided to leave and plans "to take a much needed respite to later focus on the opportunities that this wonderful community has to offer."
Regions Bank, meanwhile, declined an interview request with Brett Couch, its top statewide executive, on what it's looking for in its next South Florida president.
"We would prefer to discuss the direction of the company after a successor to Angel has been named and he or she has had time to assimilate into the position," said Regions spokesperson Mel Campbell in a telephone interview.
But local analysts said they believed Regions' recent struggles will lead it toward someone who can shore up the bank's finances and find it a profitable market segment.
The bank has 1,892 offices through its footprint, which stretches from Texas to Florida and includes some Midwestern states, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s Web site. The bank's biggest presence is Florida, with 426 offices.
Real estate-backed loans account for 50.49% of all Regions' loans and leases. And with such a wide presence in Florida, Ken Thomas, a Miami-based banking analyst and economist, said Florida real estate could be causing most of the problems the bank has been dealing with since the financial crisis began more than a year ago.
Noncurrent loans and leases accounted for 3.14% of Regions' loan portfolio as of Sept. 30, 2009, up from 1.45% at the same point the year before.
"I would assume at least a fourth of their problems are in Florida just based on the number of offices here," Mr. Thomas said.
The bank has 81 offices in South Florida and ranks fifth in the market.
"What we've seen with so many of the big banks is they've moved away from real estate lending and more toward commercial-industrial lending," Mr. Thomas said. I think "it's going to be a local person and my guess is that it will be somebody with a strong background of commercial lending more so than real estate finance."
Mr. Medina maintained close ties with the Latin Builders Association, primarily a homebuilders group.
Dennis Nason, founder of consulting and executive search firm Nason & Nason and a former senior banker, said whoever takes the reins of Southeast Florida for Regions will spend most of the time managing the bank's real estate-related woes.
"Regions, as many of the local banks, was very active in the real estate market and they'll spend the next 12 months restructuring that portfolio," he forecast.
But the bank will also need someone who can successfully manage its problems as well as capitalize on opportunities.
"Everybody is focused on identifying where their problems are, packaging them into a self-contained unit and moving on to see where they can generate revenues," Mr. Nason said. But "they may find someone whose strength is being able to develop business in a new way."
And he agreed with Mr. Thomas that the next head of South Florida for Regions will have to be local.
"South Florida is not a market for amateurs," he said. "More than likely it'll be somebody that comes out of their organization or somebody who has grown up from within the organization and knows some of the idiosyncrasies in this particular market."
Far broader changes could be come as the bank's Chief Executive Officer Dowd Ritter officially steps down March 31. He is to be replaced by President and Chief Operating Officer Grayson Hall.