Philly Legal: These Sectors Are on the Right Side of the Law

by Yolanda Rivas

2 min read SEPTEMBER 2019 — Over the last few years, Philadelphia’s legal sector has seen a steady flow of law firms entering the market as well as local firms expanding in and outside the region. As the market gets more concentrated, many firms are betting on key growth areas to expand their practices. 

According to Invest: interviews with leading legal voices in the Philly area, health and life sciences, technology, real estate and finance are some of the sectors keeping attorneys busy. With a diverse business ecosystem in Philadelphia, firms like Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C. are experiencing high demand in commercial business, especially in the areas of banking, leasing, real estate financing and real estate development.

“We also have seen growth in our employment practices area, in part due to the #MeToo movement, which is generating many more workplace claims. Commercial litigation is also a growth area for us,” Mitchell Kaplan, managing shareholder at Zarwin Baum, told Invest:. “But we are currently seeing the most growth in our data privacy and cyber-liability department. That department gets involved in the training of businesses to prevent data leaks and breaches. We provide training, prevention and breach response,” Kaplan said. 

Similarly, St. Louis-based Armstrong Teasdale LLP is growing its intellectual property presence in Philadelphia as a result of the increasing demand in technology litigation around the country. “Intellectual property services, whether it be trademark, patents or copyrights, are required by any business. We support our clients with many trademark and retail issues. For example, in the science, healthcare and pharmaceutical fields, we do a lot of patents and protection of intellectual property. There is high demand for intellectual property services in Philly,” Armstrong Teasdale’s Eastern U.S. Partner and Leader Richard Scheff said in an interview with Invest:. 

According to an article from The Legal Intelligencer, Pennsylvania-based firms saw demand growth of 2.6 percent last year, slightly above the industry average of 2.3 percent. One of the benefits of Philadelphia’s legal sector is the presence of 20 Fortune 500 companies and over 75 Fortune 1000 companies. 

Besides technology and intellectual property services, financial institutions and real estate companies are particularly robust areas for Philadelphia’s legal sector. “Blank Rome’s Real Estate and Financial Services practices are very strong, particularly in Philadelphia. Both continue to be core areas of our law firm with a strong national presence,” Alan J. Hoffman, chairman at Blank Rome LLP, told Invest:.

Finance and technology also form part of Duane Morris LLP’s Top 5 sectors in terms of revenue and areas of focus. “About 85% of our revenue is in the following industries: financial institutions, health and life sciences, technology and telecommunications, infrastructure (including construction and energy) and finally, retail and consumer products. Those areas are our focus across the firm and in Philadelphia, which is our largest office with over 200 lawyers,” Matthew Taylor, chairman & CEO at Duane Morris LLP, told Invest: 

Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group’s Q2 2019 report projects a good year in 2019 relative to earlier post-recession years, although it will be a challenge for the industry to see a repeat of 2018’s strong performance.

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

Zarwin Baum DeVito Kaplan Schaer Toddy, P.C.: https://www.zarwin.com/ 

Armstrong Teasdale LLP: https://www.armstrongteasdale.com/ 

Blank Rome LLP: https://www.blankrome.com/ 

Duane Morris LLP: https://www.duanemorris.com/ 

Big Banks’ Long-Term Investment Vision for Charlotte

Big Banks’ Long-Term Investment Vision for Charlotte

Writer: Sara Warden

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — Charlotte has long been the eastern hub of Bank of America (BofA) and is one of the headquarters of Wells Fargo. But this year it has been attracting attention from the third bank belonging to the Big Four, which together hold around 45% of total U.S. deposits. JP Morgan Chase announced earlier this year that it will add up to 21 branches in Charlotte in the next three years.

 

“We’ve been serving the Carolinas for more than a decade and opening branches allows us to lend to more consumers and small businesses, and offer good paying jobs,” Thasunda Duckett, CEO of Chase Consumer Banking, said in a press release.

JP Morgan Chase will be entering a market where many are seeing huge potential. In April this year, U.S. Bank announced it will open 10 branches in the city by 2020. The bank, which emerged from the $66 billion merger between BB&T and SunTrust, will also be headquartered in Charlotte.

Despite Wells Fargo and BofA controlling around 89% of the area’s deposits, the new entrants seem confident there will be a big enough piece of the pie for them to get their teeth into. “This expansion marks a major milestone for our firm by allowing us to serve more customers, small businesses and communities across the country,” said Duckett. “To us, this is so much more than building branches. This is about new customer relationships, better access to credit and local jobs.”

Charlotte is home to 425 corporate headquarters in the finance industry. At 2.5%, the city has the lowest corporate tax rate in the country. For three years consecutively, North Carolina’s annual residential growth has exceeded 100,000 people.

“I don’t think there’s any industry that’s having an easy time staffing with the kind of human capital that they need, so one of North Carolina’s biggest advantages right now continues to be population growth,” says Christopher Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina told WeWork publication FiveThirtyEight.

Charlotte’s finance industry is the second-largest banking hub in the country behind only New York City, with banks holding more than $2.3 trillion in assets. The city has added more than 200,000 jobs since 2001.

“We’ve built a great city that helps companies attract and retain today’s best talent,” Frances West, business recruitment and retention leader in Charlotte’s Economic Development Office, said to FiveThirtyEight. “Where we are today is not by happenstance and where we will be in 10 years is not by happenstance — it’s all by intentional growth.”

And the financial institutes have Charlotte in their crosshairs for the long run. U.S. Bank announced it reached an agreement with the city’s authorities this month to be the lead sponsor of a delayed pedestrian bridge project that connects Charlotte’s uptown and South End. U.S. Bank will contribute $1 million to the $11 million infrastructure project.

“Bridging the gap between uptown and South End will provide additional connectivity for residents, workers and guests, while further knitting together two of our great urban neighborhoods,” Michael J. Smith, CEO of Charlotte Center City Partners, said in a press release.

 

To learn more about the companies mentioned, visit:

https://www.charlottecentercity.org/

https://charlotteregion.com/eco-dev/charlotte-regional-business-allianceeconomic-development/

https://edpnc.com/

Spotlight On: Jeffery Klink, First Senior Vice President & Southern Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

Spotlight On: Jeffery Klink, First Senior Vice President & Southern Florida Regional President, Valley Bank

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 —During times of economic prosperity, the banking sector is primed to benefit the most, but when the economy begins to slow, or a recession hits, lenders normally feel the harshest effects. This forces banks and financial institutions to be innovative and mindful of how they approach their day-to-day business. There are, of course, the outliers like Valley Bank, which, as noted on its website, has never produced a losing quarter since its founding in 1927. Invest: Greater Fort Lauderdale recently spoke with Jeffery Klink, first senior vice president and Southern Florida regional president for Valley Bank, who spoke about the bank’s efforts to ensure great customer experience, how it differentiates itself in a crowded South Florida marketplace and the biggest challenge facing the banking sector. 

How does Valley Bank ensure a community bank feel while still providing the services of a large regional bank? 

We are a community bank with a regional overlay and that is how we choose to operate. What has been really interesting is that our clients in many cases do not realize that we are a large regional bank unless they need access to loans that are $25 million to $35 million or above. Our core business clients that are looking to borrow $500,000 to $5 million still view us as a community bank because that’s the space that we operate in.

How does Valley Bank differentiate from the competition in the region? 

Being client-centric is really our main differentiating factor in banking. Valley Bank, like most regional and national banks, has a similar technology platform. These systems allow users to access their accounts remotely, and they may very rarely come into our branches. How we mitigate this so the banking experience doesn’t become impersonal is to ensure that each client has a core group of bankers who they know and who know their needs. When customers call our bank, they are actually talking to somebody who knows the client not just from a business standpoint, but also on a personal level. This personal service combined with our technology platform has really allowed us to compete from a service perspective with the community banks.

What is the biggest challenge facing the banking sector? 

The main challenge in banking is balancing interest rate movements. Throughout 2018, we saw Treasury rates increase significantly and that was allowing banks to adjust and increase the rates they were collecting on new loans. In 2019, we have seen interest rates pull back, which has been to the benefit of borrowers because rates have dropped to nearly historical lows. Banks are going to have to address and combat margin compression throughout 2019 because we are collecting less on the loan side and we are paying more than we have for close to 10 years on the deposit side of the balance sheet.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

 

https://www.valley.com/

Banks increasing support for Philly’s growing small businesses sector

Banks increasing support for Philly’s growing small businesses sector

Writer: Yolanda Rivas

2 min read AUGUST 2019 — The economic environment in Philadelphia, with many world-class educational and healthcare institutions, a diverse population and affordable rents, represent an ideal space for entrepreneurs to start their small or medium-size businesses. At the heart of the small-business community is an industry that plays an essential role: banking.

 

Many Philadelphia banking leaders say they have seen increased demand for lending and other services from small businesses. “Philadelphia has long been home to successful small businesses, but in recent years the collaboration between the public, private and nonprofit sectors is spurring a new level of growth,” Robert Kane, market president at KeyBank, told Invest:. 

 

According to Kane, KeyBank ranks 13th among more than 1,800 SBA lenders nationally. In the last five years, the bank has loaned more than $1.13 billion to small businesses across its footprint.  

Similarly, Philadelphia is one of the largest portfolios in BB&T’s footprint for small business. In an interview with Invest:, Regional President Greater Delaware Valley/Lehigh Valley Region for BB&T Travis Rhodes explained that the number of small business clients the bank is serving in Philadelphia is disproportionately larger than any other market in BB&T’s footprint. As a result, it created the “Bank on Your Success” initiative, which is directed to this community. 

“This free financial knowledge program helps entrepreneurs begin to understand the value of an income statement, a balance sheet and other banking basics. When they begin to think about their kind of profitability, how to manage their short-term assets, receivables and inventory, this education is essential. That education is ultimately what prepares somebody to be able to withstand or to handle the next downturn, because it helps them understand the levers of a company,” Rhodes said. 

Some of the biggest challenges small businesses face are improving cash flow, reducing operating costs, improving financial wellness, balancing growth with quality and hiring and retaining talented employees. To help mitigate those challenges, Keybank has developed Key@Work, which is a comprehensive, no-cost employee financial wellness program. 

“We also have a program, Key4Women, that supports the financial progress of women in business. It’s a great program, offering mentorship opportunities, access to capital and professional development,” Kane said.  

The small-business sector also helps banks to maintain a local presence. “We have small-business relationship managers who know the people in the community and become the point of contact for growing their small-business loans. Business sales also come with a lot of deposits, and that’s been a very healthy growth vehicle for us over the last couple of years,” Rodger Levenson, CEO of WSFS Bank, said in an interview with Invest:. 

Small businesses also have a significant impact on Philadelphia’s employment. According to the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Philadelphia 2019: State of the City report, about 26% of private sector employees in the Philadelphia region worked in small businesses in 2017, a number that was typical for the comparison regions. Also, 17% of Philadelphia employees worked in firms with fewer than 19 employees, second-highest behind the Boston region.

“Small business continues to be the primary generator of jobs and economic activity, not just in Philadelphia but in our entire region. And we see significant growth in our small-business lending activity over the next few years,” Levenson said.  

 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit:

KeyBank: https://www.key.com/small-business/index.jsp 

BB&T: https://www.bbt.com/small-business.html 

WSFS Bank: https://www.wsfsbank.com/Small-Business 

Spotlight On: Roxana Scaffidi, CEO and Owner, Florida Accounting & Advisers

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read August 2019 — There are multiple factors that attract people to Florida, including wonderful weather, a growing economy, an ecosystem that is conducive to successful businesses and perhaps most attractive, the tax climate. After the passage of the sweeping tax reform known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the tax climate in Florida only became more attractive to both people and businesses looking to relocate. Now, almost a year and a half since the reform has been in effect, there is a greater need for proficient accountants and financial professionals to help navigate this legislation. Invest: Palm Beach spoke with Roxana Scaffidi, CEO and owner of Florida Accounting & Advisers about how the new tax code is affecting people’s lives, the key to success within the accounting and financial world, and how she created a successful business in Palm Beach County. 

How have you seen the tax reform affect people’s lifestyle? 

The new tax code has really changed people’s lives, and we are now seeing certain individuals immigrating to Florida because of the business opportunities that the state offers and its quality of life. High income tax states include New York, California and Massachusetts, and those are the people coming here. To qualify for Florida’s tax benefits you must be a legal resident here, which means six months and one day of residency. Under the new tax laws, individuals are capped at $10,000 as a deduction for their state income taxes, personal property taxes and their sales tax. In addition, if they have a large mortgage on their house, the new tax code only allows them to deduct interest up to $750,000.

 

What is the key to success in this industry? 

The key in this industry is to be proactive rather than reactive. We observe what’s going on in the world today with the national and world economies. Everything is changing and as it changes you start to see more vacancies in areas where there used to be none. This is demonstrated with how Amazon has essentially killed a lot of the big-chain retail stores. To succeed in today’s market you need to stay on top of emerging trends and you can’t be afraid to point out these things.

 

To what do you credit the success of your business in Palm Beach County? 

When I started this company I knew that to run a successful business I needed to not only have a great product but also to always remain community-minded. As the 2018 Small Business of the Year recipients, I realized quickly that Boca Raton is very business and community-minded, so it was the perfect place to set up my business. I set out to build this business based on my values, knowing that those same values would translate to trust among our clients. In this business there is nothing more important than having your clients’ full support and trust.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.fl-accounting.com 

Spotlight On: Brett Forman, President & CEO, Trez Forman Capital

By Max Crampton-Thomas

 

2 min read July 2019 — The demand for residential and commercial real estate development in Palm Beach County is at a high, and developers are jumping at the opportunity to capitalize. This spike in demand has not only been beneficial to developers but also to those who are helping fund this development. Invest: Palm Beach recently sat down with Brett Forman, President and CEO of Florida-based, commercial bridge lender Trez Forman Capital. He discussed how Palm Beach County is uniquely positioned for real estate development, and how his company is benefiting from the boom in the market.

Where are you seeing the highest demand for your services? 

We experience the highest demand from developers of condominiums or multifamily rental apartments. There are a variety of financial firms pursuing these type of deals, but we offer something slightly different. We’re competing with banks every day, and we’re competing with more traditional mezzanine players and preferred equity investors. As a result, we have to be creative and offer a unique one-stop shop, including higher proceeds than the banks and non-recourse options. 

How is Palm Beach County a unique market for real estate development? 

Palm Beach County is home to some of the most expensive residential real estate in the world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s also home to some of the poorest areas. So when you talk about Palm Beach real estate, you’re talking about a very diverse asset mix.

Trez Forman is more or less asset-agnostic; we lend against residential real estate, whether it’s apartment communities for rent, single-family houses for rent or condominiums for sale. We don’t necessarily construct homes, but we finance the lot on which developers do the horizontal development. 

What differentiates Trez Forman Capital from a traditional bank? 

It’s very easy to understand what differentiates us from the banks, since the banks are highly regulated. They have to do things according to what the regulatory agencies prescribe, and their leverage is usually much lower and typically requires recourse. What we’re offering is a much higher loan-to-cost solution. Trez Forman basically can take what the bank and the preferred equity investor offers and combine it to provide our clients with a one-stop solution that has surety of execution. We like to under-promise and over-deliver. We can fund a deal in 30 to 45 days, unlike a bank that may not be able to lend in that timeframe.

 

To learn more about our interviewee, visit its website:

https://www.trezforman.com/

No Stopping Tampa Tourism Rocket

Max Crampton-Thomas

2 minute read July 2019 — Quite often when the city of Tampa Bay is mentioned it is in the context of how rapidly the area is growing both in population and economically. The boom Tampa Bay is experiencing can be attributed to a great many things, including a bustling tech sector, a revolutionary healthcare market and first-class educational institutions. Perhaps most influential in all this growth, however, has been the economic rocket that is the city’s tourism sector. Tourism in Tampa Bay has steadily risen year after year, and with events like Super Bowl LV and Wrestlemania 36 on the horizon, that trend shows no signs of slowing down.

The spike in tourism to the region has not been by chance. Rather, it can be attributed to the focused and deliberate efforts made by local businesses, government and community organizations. Invest: Tampa Bay recently spoke with Santiago Corrada, the president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, about the record year the city had in 2018. “We had an incredible end to the 2018 calendar year. It was another record-setting year for hotel revenue, which is phenomenal given that we have had record-setting years every year since 2014. We ended 2018 at $673.5 million in hotel taxable revenue, which was almost 5% higher than the previous year at $644 million. This is important for us because anytime a county hits $600 million in taxable revenue, it is granted the designation of a high-impact tourism destination. We have been able to reach that designation for two years in a row, and this year was even more important because our county commission just approved a rise in the tourism tax from 5% to 6%, which is the highest that any county can collect.” The growth in tourism throughout Tampa Bay also has a spillover effect. As demand increases and new attractions open they bring with them fresh job opportunities for local residents.

To sustain momentum and build on these milestones, Corrada says that attracting new hotels to the city makes sense. “There are certain big-name, five-star brands we do not have in Hillsborough County, and as the business plan makes sense to add these properties then we will. These new properties will yield different business groups and markets for the region. We have to continue to capitalize when we have an opportunity to expand our reach, refresh our brands and to always have something new to bring visitors back,” Santiago told Invest. “That’s why new developments like the Tampa Riverwalk are so important, why food halls are so important and why Busch Gardens updating and adding its roller coasters is significant because it gives people a reason to want to come back to Tampa Bay. Sustainability in this industry has to do with still being aggressive and still going after it.”

Tampa Bay is quickly becoming a premier, must-visit destination in Florida. Tourism in the city of Tampa Bay shows no signs of slowing down, and due to the efforts of organizations like Visit Tampa Bay will likely reach new heights in 2019. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

https://www.visittampabay.com/

Spotlight on: William Burns, Tax Office Managing Partner, BDO

By Yolanda Rivas

2 min read JULY 2019 — Accountants and financial professionals play an important role in the global economy and business model, taking on an array of roles within organizations in all industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the employment of accountants and auditors is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. 

Accountants can bring a significant perspective of the economy and industries growth. Our ‘Spotlight on’ for this week brings a perspective of what are the industries looking for in regards to advisory and how the local accounting companies impact the labor pool.

BDO offers a wide range of services including advisory, audit/assurance and tax services. Which are most in demand in Philadelphia?  

The core services that we provide in Philadelphia are audit and tax, which is where we are seeing the most demand. Our recent acquisition of AC Lordi will allow us to bolster what we can do regarding advisory and scale us up to the next level. We have seen an increase in demand for our services from healthcare, life sciences, and manufacturing and distribution. In addition, we have seen an influx of people reaching out for advice regarding maximizing the benefits of tax reform. We expect to see an increased demand for advisory services related to tax reform, especially surrounding Opportunity Zones.

What are BDO’s efforts to recruit talent from the local pool?

Six years ago, BDO merged a select group of geographically close practices, retiring a number of partners and ushering in a new class. We now find ourselves in a position where we can grow exponentially in one of the largest markets in the country. Our focus on targeted growth means we are constantly adding talent as we look to expanding our tax specialties.

There is always a hunt for qualified talent. To combat that, we try to over-hire at the entry level. Turnover in our industry is relatively high and by attracting more students at the front end we have more opportunity to offer them higher positions when people decide to leave. We have partnerships with local universities and we recruit on a regional and national level. We also have a program to identify and attract students to the region from all over the nation.

What Impact does technology have on the accounting and financial sectors?

Technology has a huge impact on how we operate, since most of what we do is software driven. Data analytics is making us more efficient and many firms are using it as a tool within their audit and tax practices. Those firms that aren’t focused on using and developing technology are going to lag behind.

To learn more about our interviewee, visit:

https://www.bdo.com/about/us-locations/philadelphia-office 

Miami Banks Leading Tech Charge

By Yolanda Rivas

July 2019

2 min read  — Advances in technology are having a dramatic influence in the banking sector across the globe. Innovations are impacting the delivery of products and services, making the banking process faster, easier and more reliable. Customer satisfaction and increased competition are driving the tech push, and there is more on the horizon.

“We are changing our core banking system and investing more than $25 million to make that change. It’s an important step for us because we know technology will be the driving force to our growth in the future,” Fernando Beyruti, CEO of Itau Private Bank, told Invest:. 

An article from Bank Innovation explains that banks are spending more than $100 million to replace their aging core systems. Advances in blockchain technology, IoT, fintech, online banking and robotics have helped many financial institutions improve efficiency and accessibility. 

The investment isn’t just to make banking easier now, it is also part of the future. Technology is an integral part of City National Bank’s five-year plan. “We will invest over $15 million in digital transformation for the organization. This will ensure that we continue to be innovative as well as impactful through improving our client experience,” President and CEO Jorge Gonzalez told Invest:.  

Many financial institutions are also partnering with financial technology (fintech) groups to improve their offerings. According to a 2017 report from multinational professional services network PwC, 82% of financial leaders expect to increase fintech partnerships in the next three to five years. 

Cybersecurity and fraud detection are other areas where technology is playing a key role. “When we invest in technology we are also investing in strengthening our cybersecurity,” Gonzalez stated. The investment is not just in the technology, but also in bringing in the right people who have the experience and talent to be able to instill their knowledge throughout the organization,” he said. 

In that regard, First American Bank recently created a senior-level position — information security officer — whose role is to train employees and allocate resources in preparation for possible cyberattacks. “Security threats are on the rise, forcing us to be mindful that our information can be compromised at any time. Through back-room investments and increased training, we are taking the necessary precautions to reduce risk by educating our employees as well as our customers,” Brian Hagan, Florida Market President for First American Bank, told Invest:. 

Although technology adoption can be a challenge for some financial institutions, especially smaller banks that do not have the financial capacity to keep up with the latest innovations, ultimately it can provide a cost-savings. “I think all of us as a banking community in Miami are saddled with compliance concerns. But I think that, with technology, those kinds of costs can be reduced gradually while still maintaining the kind of vigilance that we have to have. There’s a good opportunity for our industry here,” G. Frederick Reinhardt, Chairman and CEO of Brickell Bank, stated in an Interview with Invest:. 

To learn more about our interviewees, visit their websites:

Itau Private Bank: http://www.itauprivatebank.com/

City National Bank: https://www.citynationalcm.com/home/home 

First American Bank: https://www.firstambank.com/personalbanking/ 

Brickell Bank: https://brickellbankmiami.com/ 

PwC: https://www.pwc.com/ 

Bank Innovation: https://bankinnovation.net/