First Bank of the Palm Beaches Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joseph B. “Jay” Shearouse, III, loves to see businesses in his community — especially those of his customers —thrive and grow. He also loves working with people who are talented and passionate.
“Banking is an amazing profession because it allows us to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We provide an important and rewarding role for our community. And, at our bank, we do it with a great group of people,” said Shearouse. “People who work at First Bank have heart. They like what they’re doing and it shows.”
First Bank of the Palm Beaches specializes in building personal relationships, while maintaining state-of-the-art online banking and technology.
“Our bankers understand lending in Palm Beach County and will help customers with anything: home mortgages, business lines of credit, online bill pay, whatever. We enjoy it. That’s why we’re here,” said Shearouse. “I believe that our service is one of the things that make us stand out. We have a consultative approach that has proven to be successful.”
A Great Team
Shearouse spent the first 28 years of his banking career at Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust of West Palm Beach which sold to National City Corporation in 2007, where he remained as Southeast Florida president for more than two years. After leaving National City, he enjoyed more than a year of fishing, hunting and traveling with his wife, Michelle, when an invitation from a board member of First Bank of the Palm Beaches brought him back to the industry in 2010.
“From the beginning, I realized that we needed a world-class team, so I started making phone calls,” said Shearouse. “I am pleased to say that they all stepped up to the plate, and together we’ve been able to grow the bank from a low of $58 million to approximately $158 million in assets.”
The team Shearouse referenced is made up of SVP & Chief Operating Officer John Ahrenholz; SVP & Chief Lending Officer Steven Eassa; SVP & Chief Financial Officer Brian Mahoney; SVP & Chief Risk Officer Cindy Sheppard; and VP Chris Cook. All have been community bankers in Palm Beach County for their entire careers and many worked together previously. The members of the senior leadership team at First Bank of the Palm Beaches have a combined total of nearly 200 years in Florida banking.
“Beyond my wife and kids, these people are family. Family is an overarching theme at this bank and it starts at the top,” said Shearouse. “We act like family. We care about each other. We can have honest conversations. We have fun. We like each other. We respect each other.”
That caring and respect extends to customers as well. “Everyone here does their job and does it well, which is why we can have complete trust,” said Sheppard. “We don’t ever have to worry that someone won’t follow through or won’t be able to handle a situation. Once it’s passed off, we know it’s going to be taken care of for our customers.”
First Bank of the Palm Beaches’ customers are primarily small-business owners ranging from law firms and accountants to plumbers and professional associations. The bank is also growing its mortgage banking business.
“Many of us are from a thrift background so mortgages serve as the cornerstone of banking from our perspective,” said Eassa. “It’s an area where we have been successful and are expanding.”
Slow and Steady Growth
Beyond mortgages, First Bank of the Palm Beaches is growing. In 2016, thanks to a focus on developing new clients and expanding existing relationships, the bank increased total deposit accounts by 18 percent, increased commercial accounts by 29 percent and grew total transaction accounts by 21 percent. In addition, a new branch location is planned in Wellington that will open the last quarter of 2017.
“We have been committed to building our business and the results speak for themselves. We have also implemented network and security upgrades since technology and security are so critical to our banking operations,” said Ahrenholz. “While the importance of sound banking techniques and infrastructure are important, there is no question that the cornerstone of our bank is our people. The quality of our team has been essential for our success.”
The bank hasn’t always been in excellent condition. When Shearouse and his leadership team first took over, they had a lot of work to do.
“We put up our own money and worked to turn this bank around. We renegotiated, litigated and solved problems,” said Shearouse. “The bank was troubled, but within three years we had gotten it to the point of good health and now it’s recognized as one of the safest banks in the nation.”
The founding values of First Bank of the Palm Beaches were instilled in Shearouse and other members of the leadership team by Joseph B. “Joe” Shearouse, Jr. — Jay’s father, who was founder, chairman and CEO of Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust.
“My dad was a mentor to me and so many others. He was a leader of Florida’s banking industry and set an example for us all,” said Shearouse.
One of the ideals at First Bank of the Palm Beaches is to operate within a set of core values. Those values include:
- Availability — Bankers are available to all customers; cell phone numbers are on business cards and any customer is welcome to meet with the CEO in person. The bank is to be more than a place where customers place their money and should be a place to support them in their financial lives.
- Honesty — Bankers will always be honest with customers and stakeholders about how and why things operate the way they do. Advice will be offered in addition to services and bankers will explain fees as well as detail why they are charged.
- Community — First Bank of the Palm Beaches is a community bank. Employees live and work in the area with a goal of making the shared community a better place. The bank will invest local deposits in loans to improve businesses, improve real estate, hire employees, send kids to college, etc.
“We work to serve our neighbors here in Palm Beach County like we would want to be served,” said Mahoney. “We were founded by local Palm Beach County businesspeople 11 years ago in order to support our community. We are committed and dedicated to our customers and all of our stakeholders and want to help them achieve their goals.”
Meet Jay Shearouse
Chairman and Chief Executive Ofﬁcer of First Bank of the Palm Beaches Joseph B. “Jay” Shearouse, III, is a longtime Florida banker. Prior to his current role, Shearouse served for two years as Southeast Florida president of National City Corporation and, before that, as executive vice president for Fidelity Federal Bank & Trust where he worked for more than 28 years.
A third-generation Floridian, Shearouse is very active in his community and currently serves on the boards of the United Way of Palm Beach County, the Chamber of Commerce of the Palm Beaches, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County and the Palm Healthcare Foundation of Palm Beach County.
Shearouse has been an active member of the Florida Bankers Association and currently serves as a member of the FBA Board of Directors. He previously served as chairman of the BankPac Board of Directors, and as member of the FBA’s Government Relations Committee. In addition, he served the banking industry on a national level through his service on the board of America’s Community Bankers. Shearouse was named FBA’s “Banker of the Year” in 2006.
Shearouse and his wife, Michelle, and his children, Joseph IV and Eric, reside in Jupiter. A graduate of Florida State University, Shearouse’s hobbies include hunting, ﬁshing, and diving.