Bank Pros In The Know

Franklin Roosevelt once famously cautioned, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” How right he was. But financial headlines these days are enough to drive anyone into a near panic. From bailouts and buyouts to sinking stocks and golden parachutes, Americans have been inundated almost daily with grim reminders of our ailing economy.


It was another wise American—author Ralph Waldo Emerson—who advised that the best antidote to fear is knowledge. So in light of the bleak financial news, Lake & Sumter Style decided to ask our local banking leaders how they feel about the future. Did they agree with the bailout? What should Americans be doing now to secure their future? As professionals with their finger on the pulse of the local economy, their perspective proved enlightening.


We asked a few lighthearted questions as well, from how they earned their first paycheck to the best purchase they ever made. And yes, even who balances their checkbook at home.


Here’s what our banking pros know.




‘Pay yourself first’


JAY R. BARTHOLOMEW
Age: 42
Title: Senior Vice President/
Retail Banking Administrator
Company: Colonial Bank
Years in the Industry: 21
 
What made you decide to go into banking?
When I was very young, my parents had a close friend who was a bank president. The visits to the bank must have impressed me.


What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
Pay yourself first. Always save something every paycheck, even if it’s a small amount.


Considering the recent Wall Street crisis, how do you feel about the state of the U.S. economy?
Overall, I think the economy is weak, but we have been very blessed for so long, any erosion seems significant.


What should average Americans be doing today to secure their money and their future?
Everyone’s situation is different. Unless you’re an investment professional, seek the advice of a qualified investment counselor. So often, clients rely too heavily on family members and friends to guide them.


What should they not do?
Never put your eggs in one basket. Be diversified in your investments.


What’s the smartest thing you’ve ever purchased? Your biggest splurge?
My wife’s 20-year anniversary ring. I don’t splurge much. When I do, I like to spend money on vacations and golf clubs.


What makes your bank different than the others?
We’re large enough to service our clients but small enough to be personalized.


Who balances the checkbook in your household?
I balance the checkbook. That’s my job.




‘It’s not how much money you make’


STEVE KNOWLES
Age: 56
Title: Vice President
Company: CenterState Bank
Years in the Industry: 31


How and when did you earn your very first paycheck?
I mowed my grandmother’s yard and weeded her flower beds on Saturdays when I was in high school.


What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
It’s not how much money you make; it is how much money you save.


Considering the recent Wall Street crisis, how do you feel about the state of the U.S. economy?
Cautiously optimistic—our family has traveled to a number of foreign countries, and our country is the best place to live in the world. That’s not to say there are no bumps in the road, but there are very few things in life that are a given.


Do you think we’ve reached the bottom of our current economic downturn? Why or why not?
No, I don’t. The economic downturn is likely to be deeper and longer than generally expected. The global economy is very diverse and hard to predict.


What’s the smartest thing you’ve ever purchased? Your biggest splurge?
Real estate purchases for [both] questions.


What makes your bank different than the others?
We are a local community bank that believes the best way to serve the community is to keep your bank sound, your money secure, and your service personal. As a result of good, solid lending practices, we have the liquidity to make good, solid loans.


Who balances the checkbook in your household?
My wife. She does an excellent job.




‘Don’t put cash under the mattress’


VAN CANADA
Age: 58
Title: President, Volusia and Lake Counties
Company: Riverside National Bank of Florida
Years in the Industry: 33


How and when did you earn your very first paycheck?
My parents owned a mobile home park in upstate New York. I used to mow lawns for the residents when I was 12.


What should average Americans be doing today to secure their money and their future?
Think long-term! Investment losses are (usually) only paper losses until you sell and realize an actual loss.


What should they not do?
Don’t panic. Don’t put cash under the mattress.


Do you think we’ve reached the bottom of our current economic downturn? Why or why not?
I think there is still going to be movement downward in the commercial sector. The economy has suffered a deep wound, and even if the bleeding has stopped, it will take a long time to heal.


What’s the smartest thing you’ve ever purchased? Your biggest splurge?
Harley Davidson Road King on both counts.


What makes your bank different than the others?
There is a real family atmosphere here. We take care of each other. That environment is rare in today’s corporate America. I think that comes across to our customers in the way we treat them also.


Who balances the checkbook in your household?
My wife and I each have our own. She balances hers, and no one balances mine!




‘This too will turn’


MATT HOINSKI
Title: Vice President Community Banker
Company: Regions Bank
Years in the Industry: 10


What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
Invest for the long-term, and don’t get caught up in the news of the day.


Considering the recent Wall Street crisis, how do you feel about the state of the U.S. economy?
I can only say business runs in cycles, and we are in a down cycle. History tells us this too will turn.


Do you think we’ve reached the bottom of our current economic downturn? Why or why not?
I don’t believe the bottom has ever been predicted by anyone. The reality is that the failed institutions represent a very small percentage of the industry.


Do you agree with the government’s bailout of the struggling financial securities industry?
Regardless of this environment, the majority of our banks are operating from a position of strength. Did our government need to step in? Perhaps, but that question will be answered in the coming months.


What makes your bank different than the others?
Our chairman said, “Our approach is simple—invest in things that make life better. Earn a higher return on life.”


Who balances the checkbook in your household?
I’m into Internet banking, so I do the bills.




‘Allowing the marketplace to work’


MICHAEL (“MIKE”) L. SLEAFORD
Age: 47
Title: President/CEO
Company: Reunion Bank of Florida
Years in the Industry: 25


How and when did you earn your very first paycheck?
I began mowing yards when I was 12 years old growing up in Vero Beach.


Do you think we’ve reached the bottom of our current economic downturn? Why or why not?
I think we are close to the bottom. However, I believe that working our way out of our present economic situation will be a slow process.


Do you agree with the government’s bailout of the struggling financial securities industry?
I am a believer in allowing the marketplace to work through good and bad times, however there are aspects of this plan that have merit and given the fragile state/perception of our economy in the public eye, a plan of some structure was required.


What’s the smartest thing you’ve ever purchased? Your biggest splurge?
Smartest purchase: My wife’s engagement ring. Biggest splurge: My 2005 Scout Bay Boat.


What makes your bank different than the others?
Reunion Bank of Florida was formed by dedicated and experienced bankers who wholeheartedly believe in providing banking services the way banking was originally designed. It is where the customer’s needs are the priority.


Who balances the checkbook in your household?
Cathy, my wife. She does an outstanding job.




‘Work hard, save, and invest’


JOHN (“JACK”) D. PEASE, III
Age: 60 • Title: Chairman/CEO
Company: The First National Bank of Mount Dora
Years in the Industry: 38


What made you decide to go into banking?
My family has a long history [with] The First National Bank of Mount Dora. When I was young, I would come with my grandfather to the bank on weekends. Once I graduated from college, the opportunity to work with him was one I could not refuse.


How and when did you earn your very first paycheck?
Picking watermelons at 50 cents an hour.


What’s the best financial advice you’ve ever received?
Work hard, save, and invest in assets that have the ability to grow in value. Never purchase without the ability to repay from your current budget.


Considering the recent Wall Street crisis, how do you feel about the state of the U.S. economy?
There is no doubt our economy is struggling on both a local and national level. However, as Americans, we have always shown the ability and determination to address the problems at hand, dig in, and fix them.


What makes your bank different than the others?
Our long history as a locally owned, independent bank and the longevity of our staff. The First National Bank of Mount Dora opened in 1925, and from the very start, we have had a loyal staff [that] stays with us and helps us provide the excellent customer service.


Who balances the checkbook in your household?
Both my wife and I.

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