by Liz Daube
The rapid growth of Mandarin-based First Bank might be explained by the arrival of CEO and president Cindy Delaparte – and fresh-baked cookies.
Since Delaparte was hired in 2004, First Bank has added new technology like online banking and drive-up ATMs, expanded financial services and planned three new branch locations for the Lakewood and San Pablo neighborhoods and Amelia Island. The bank’s assets have also grown, from $28 million in 2004 to Delaparte’s current estimate of almost $100 million.
She said the bank’s success can be partially attributed to the customer service training she brought in. Delaparte explained that small things – like the complimentary cookies in the bank’s lobby – are an important part of that service.
“All banks pretty much have the same products,” said Delaparte. “We really differentiate ourselves with how we treat our customers.”
Delaparte added the bank tries to tailor its services to each customer’s needs. That’s part of why she recently chose to add wealth management to First Bank’s menu of financial services.
“I felt like there were some needs that were not being met,” said Delaparte.
A variety of services allows the bank to accommodate customers who want to purchase stocks in addition to keeping a checking account.
In fact, the snacking options in the lobby have diversified, as well. Delaparte said they offer fruit for diet-conscious customers and two coffee blends to suite individual tastes.
Delaparte said she thinks her biggest accomplishment has been training and motivating the bank’s employees.
“They really care,” she said. “We enjoy ourselves. It doesn’t really feel like work.”
Delaparte’s not quite ready to relax, though. She said the new branch locations will begin opening in September. Over the next five years, Delaparte said she wants the bank’s assets to surpass $600 million. It’s a big goal, but Delaparte has experience.
The Tampa native cultivated the small, one-branch Millennium Bank in Gainesville into a $130 million institution with four branches. Delaparte left to seek a new challenge after the bank was sold to a larger corporation.
“We don’t have any plans to sell out,” she said of First Bank. “We’re growing really fast and we’re enjoying it.”
Delaparte said she releases stress by watching movies with her daughter (“Napoleon Dynamite” is a mutual favorite), reading the Bible and spending time outdoors.
“My stress is only because there aren’t enough hours in the day,” she said. “I like to stay very busy, but I like to stay balanced.”