George Norcross, a South Jersey Democratic power broker and the executive chairman of insurance firm Conner Strong & Buckelew, released a letter today calling for leadership changes at Republic First Bancorp, saying that the bank’s stock price has underperformed relative to its underlying value.
Norcross was joined on the letter by his brother, Philip Norcross, and former TD Bank CEO Gregory Braca. Collectively, the three own 6.6% of Republic Bank’s shares, making them the largest non-institutional, non-insider shareholders.
“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,” they wrote in their letter, which was addressed to the bank’s board of directors. “Collectively, these results over the last several years have been so poor as to suggest an immediate reevaluation of strategy.”
Republic Bank was started by Vernon Hill, the founder of Commerce Bank. Commerce Insurance was the base of Norcross’ early power until it was sold to the Toronto-based TD Bank in 2007. As part of the deal, Norcross was able to buy back the insurance business and form Conner Strong.
The biggest change the letter calls for is appointing one of its three writers as CEO; the Norcross brothers and Braca wrote that Braca himself would be an “outstanding candidate” for the role.
Other changes include expanding the bank’s reach throughout the New York and Philadelphia areas, increasing digital investment, and creating a community investment plan to reach lower income and majority-minority communities.Bell – Letter to Directors