C1 Bank makes splash in Wynwood with eye-catching branch

March 4, 2014

C1 Bank has surely won some style points in Wynwood – where its new branch fits the Miami neighborhood’s artistic culture – and now it’s looking to win over more customers.

The St. Petersburg-based bank designed its first South Florida branch, at 2632 N. Miami Ave., to turn heads. Forget teller lines; the wide-open space has a circular desk with a black chandelier hanging above it, and a huge display of artwork on the wall behind it. The conference room is full of Andy Warhol paintings. While that artwork is on loan from Aventura-based Gallery Art, a client of the bank, CEO Trevor Burgess said it would rotate artwork in the branch. He hopes to showcase local talent.

The main desk can also fold away, creating a big space for community and charitable events at night. Burgess said the bank built a kitchen to cater such occasions.

“The zoning department asked how many people were living here when they saw our kitchen,” he said.

Instead of meeting with bankers in offices or at desks, the C1 Bank branch has what Burgess calls pods. They resemble restaurant booths with round tables and soundproof glass. C1 Bank designed an iPad app that opens accounts so its bankers can discuss business in a casual setting.

For those who select a safe deposit box, they must move aside a wall of bookcases – think a mysterious mansion – to get to the boxes.

And if they work up a sweat, there’s a shower.

“It is things like this that make banking more fun,” Burgess said.

Burgess considers himself an entrepreneur at heart, and that’s the spirit he brought to C1 Bank after he joined a group of Brazilian investors to buy it four years ago. It expanded to 26 branches on Florida’s West Coast through failed bank acquisitions and de novo branching.

C1 Bank almost bought Doral-based U.S. Century Bank in 2012, but that deal fell apart. Instead, Burgess decided to open a lending office on Brickell Avenue, sign a sponsorship deal with the Miami Heat, and scout for locations for full-service branches.

The bank had $419 million in loan production in 2013, including $154 million in Miami, despite having just a handful of people and no branches until now.

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“We are focused on serving needs of local entrepreneurs, a different side of banking,” Burgess said. “A big portion of our loans was for business owners.”

C1 Bank likes to make commercial loans secured by real estate, but where the cash flow of the business is the main repayment source, he said. The bank’s sweet spot is business loans of $1 million to $25 million, he said. It also does many jumbo home loans and home construction loans.

The bank is among the most productive lenders in the U.S. Small Business Administration program in the Tampa market, and Burgess expects that to carry over to Miami.

C1 Bank has three more branches under development here. The locations in Doral and Coral Gables should be ready this summer, while a Miami Beach branch within the Palau Sunset Harbor condominium project should be open in spring 2015, Burgess said. When they are all open, C1 Bank’s Miami staff will increase from nine to about 25, he added.

RELATED CONTENT: C1 Bank buys branch from First Bank Florida

“I try in at least one branch in a major market to have a unique style,” Burgess said. “The others will have a clean, modern feel, but not quite to this high level of design.”

The Wynwood branch was designed by interior designer Rob Bowen, of Rob Bowen Design Group, and Lisa Wannemacher, of Wannemacher Jensen Architects, both from St. Petersburg. Since it has some excess property on the former industrial site, C1 Bank will knock down one building to create a parking lot and rent out a neighboring building.

C1 Bank has the first bank branch in Wynwood, a neighborhood that’s been revitalized by art and design galleries and new developments. Perhaps it’s fitting that Alan Randolph, the C1 Bank senior VP and Miami market leader, is co-owner of the Untitled Art Fair on Miami Beach and on the board of the Bass Museum of Art.

“I love it here, the sense of community,” Randolph said of Wynwood. “It is bustling. There are a lot of hidden businesses here. I told Trevor the first one in usually wins.”

As for acquisitions, Burgess said C1 Bank has no interest in taking another look at U.S. Century Bank, which is seeking another buyer. It would consider participating in the bidding for a failed bank, but right now it’s focused on organic growth, he said.

“In Miami, I put together a first-class team with great contacts in the community,” Burgess said. “We have great traction, and I think that is the way we will go here.”