Bluffton bank to get new CEO, board members

gsmith@islandpacket.comDecember 17, 2012 

Leadership at Atlantic Community Bank of Bluffton is in flux after its CEO Robert Trask and two board members recently stepped down.

Trask resigned Oct. 24, the same day as board member Allen Ward. Another board member, Mark Simpson, left Nov. 24, according to Brian Smith, chairman of the bank's board.

The bank's 400 shareholders found out Dec. 11 when a letter was posted to the bank's website.

Smith said Trask left for unspecified personal reasons, while both Ward and Simpson said they needed to spend more time with other business obligations.

"Both board members had let us know previously (within the past year or two) that they would be leaving the board and they were just waiting to make sure the economy was improving and all was going well," Smith said, adding board membership is an unpaid, time-consuming post. "Both of them have business endeavors personally that require more of their time. They're both still customers and friends of the bank and investors, and we appreciate their dedication."

Smith emphasized the bank is in good financial standing, and that it is coincidental that the three men left in such a short period of time.

The 2012 annual report is not out yet.

The bank received two of a possible five stars in rankings by BauerFinancial, a Florida-based independent bank research firm. The rating is based on previous years' financial data and means the bank is "troubled," according to the firm.

"It's been posting loss after loss after loss," said Caroline Jervey, BauerFinancial's vice president. "It had a profit in the second quarter, but every other quarter in the past five (quarters) there has been a loss."

But Jervey said there are signs of improvement, particularly in the bank's capital ratio, which was 8.7 percent as of Sept. 30. That compares to 6.8 percent one year earlier.

"I see it improving, but it needs to turn a profit," she said.

The bank soon will begin interviewing possible replacements for Trask, Smith said. Until one is named, chief financial officer Michelle Pennell and chief credit officer Todd Hoke are in charge. Five board members remain including Smith.

The bank posted a more than $1.1 million net loss for the six-month period that ended Dec. 31, 2011, according to its annual report. But the bleeding has slowed. As of the quarter that ended June 30, 2012, it had decreased to more than $110,000, according to unaudited financial data.

Total assets were more than $81 million at the end of June, compared to nearly $93 million at the end of December 2011.

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