The Bank Slate


Republic First faces pressure from second investor group

A group with ties to Vernon Hill has suggested replacing him as CEO of Republic First Bancorp in Philadelphia. 

George Norcross III, Gregory Braca and Phillip Norcross suggested in a Jan. 31 letter to the $5.4 billion-asset company’s board that it should consider hiring Braca to replace Hill. 

Braca once served as president and CEO of TD Bank, which bought Commerce Bank in 2007 after Hill was removed as that bank’s CEO. George Norcross was CEO of Commerce’s insurance business. 

“We are of the opinion that the company’s depressed stock performance over several years is directly attributable to weak operating results, including return on assets and return on capital of less than half that of its peers and efficiency ratios and cost of funds for its deposits running higher than industry norms,” the investors wrote in their letter. 

The investors, who own about 6.6% of Republic First’s stock, said they intend to buy more shares. 

They requested an “opportunity to consult with the board” to way to unlock value at Republic First. 

“We believe that such a collaborative arrangement could help the company avoid the disruption and expense of, and value destructive possibilities inherent in, situations such as the recently initiated proxy contest,” the letter said. 

The letter comes weeks after Driver Management, another activist shareholder, announced plans to nominate three directors to stand for election to Republic First’s board. Republic First recently decided to delay plans to raise more capital – a move that Driver had criticized. 

The Norcross-Braca group had more suggestions for the Republic First board, urging it to add more independent directors. The investors suggested that Republic First expand its commercial business around New York and Philadelphia, invest more in digital and financial technology and rein in expenses. 

The group also wants the company to ensure that future deposit growth is accretive to earnings and secure the talent and resources needed to drive the board’s strategy. 

The letter also recommended that Republic First develop a new community investment plan that would “make it a leader” in minority and low- and moderate-income communities.

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