Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Home-Grown' Ponte Vedra Bank to Open

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

'Home-Grown' Ponte Vedra Bank to Open

Article excerpt

Byline: Drew Dixon, Shorelines staff writer

For the first time in several years, a locally operated bank is opening in Ponte Vedra Beach.

A dozen First Coast businesspeople with ties to Ponte Vedra Beach are opening Cygnet Private Bank in hopes of establishing a bank for hometown clients. The bank will target affluent northeast St. Johns County residents as clientele.

Luther Coggin, owner of 18 auto dealerships in Florida, is the chairman of the Cygnet board. He said there's a need for more personalized service in local banking.

"When I moved here and started banking, as time has gone on, banks have consolidated and gone into huge conglomerations. Getting a real live person on the phone can be difficult at times. . . . There is a need for a personalized service bank for people who are reasonably wealthy. They would be as delighted as I am to sit down and pick up a phone and have a one-on-one conversation," Coggin said.

While Coggin is a big name in automotive sales, he's also had some experience in banking. He was an organizer of Atlantic Bank, which eventually merged with First Union, then Wachovia.

Coggin was asked if Cygnet is another local bank that will eventually be sold to a larger banking corporation.

"I certainly wouldn't rule that out," Coggin said. "That's a possibility somewhere down the road, but that's certainly not in the short term.

"We got to talking about the way banking used to be and the need for it in the Ponte Vedra area; it just got started like that," Coggin said. "They seem to think this is a viable idea."

Board member Guy Nix acknowledged a sellout is a possibility someday. But that's not planned.

"There's nothing to say that that wouldn't or couldn't happen," Nix said. "But when you look at the history, it doesn't happen that quickly. There are no guarantees in life. But the makeup of this board of directors is such that they're not eager to sell and they're of means. They're not in it for the quick buck; if anything, we'd like to do some acquiring and growing. We're all in it for the long haul. How long that is, I don't know."

Nix said Cygnet has been able to raise $10 million in capital stock in the bank. The average investment is $170,000, he said.

Nix is a veteran of banking and was one of the founders, president, chairman and chief executive officer for the former Ponte Vedra National Bank. That bank was sold in January 1996 to SunTrust.

Nix said he was working with SunTrust until he signed on as a consultant with Cygnet in February. With the affluent influences in Ponte Vedra Beach, there's no reason a new local bank can't succeed, he said.

"Certainly, that is our initial target market. Every one of our directors lives in Ponte Vedra, so that's where we're going to start. …

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