Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read June 2021 — As part of Fulton Financial Corporation, a $25 billion financial services holding company, Fulton Bank offers a broad array of financial products and services in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. Senior Vice President and Regional Commercial Executive Louis Lombardi spoke with Invest: about the bank’s footprint in South Jersey and the trends that are shaping the industry.
What is the bank’s importance in the South Jersey community?
Fulton Bank has been around for 140 years, and we have remained an independent bank. We are big enough to provide all the products and services of a larger institution, but we can deliver those services through a community bank model. Our size and capabilities were on display when we ran the PPP loan program in spring 2020. In PPP rounds one and two, we were able to grant 10,000 loans totaling $2 billion. The teams rallied for our customers, which translated to working nights and weekends. We put our clients at the forefront of everything we do, and this was an opportunity to show how much we care and how far we are willing to go for our clients.
What commercial banking segments are doing well today?
Right now, most of our clients are doing fairly well. There are certainly a number of sectors that continue to face challenges, but for the most part our portfolio has been very resilient. Our healthcare banking group is doing really well, and the investment real estate group is focusing on logistics and distribution as well as multifamily asset classes. We’ve also started a life sciences and technology initiative, given the status of South Jersey and Philadelphia as a national hub for life sciences. That is a high growth area.
How has your business been impacted by technology?
Technology is affecting everyone in every industry, and banking is no exception. We’ve invested in technology across all of our initiatives because technology is a factor in nearly everything we do. Integrating technology augments and improves the client experience. We are constantly on this journey to improve. As we do this, we want to ensure the focus remains on the client relationship, no matter how much technology we implement.
What do you see as the main market trends affecting clients?
As we meet with our clients, we’re hearing about a few trends. The labor shortage is definitely one of those, no matter the sector. Another thing we are seeing is an increase in prices, which is also across the board. The pandemic has disrupted the supply chain, which has created price increases, combined with the reopening demand that we’re seeing. It’s hard to imagine a situation where we can completely avoid some level of inflation. If it does start to increase, that will likely result in higher interest rates. Generally speaking, we are seeing robust demand from most of our clients, with most seeing quarter-over-quarter revenue growth. Our clients on the whole remain optimistic about this year.
How does business travel compare this year to last year?
In the past, our team had been on the road a lot. We strongly encouraged our employees to be out meeting clients and developing personal relationships. With the pandemic, this came to a halt and we substituted those visits for virtual meetings. It’s not an even substitute, but it has helped us remain connected with clients. In recent months, as people get vaccinated, they are starting to get more comfortable meeting in person. Business travel is still far below pre-pandemic levels, but it is starting to pick up again. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, we are probably still below 25% in terms of business travel, but it’s starting to creep up.
How would you describe the strength of the business community in South Jersey?
One of the great things about South Jersey is the diversity of the economy. There is manufacturing, distribution, hospitality, recreation, and agriculture. Fulton Bank is the largest agricultural bank in the Northeast, and we think that is a great growth opportunity. Secondly, South Jersey’s proximity to so many major metropolitan areas means it is in a great position to capitalize on the growth of e-commerce. There are also very strong medical institutions keeping our healthcare banking group very busy. I think it is the diversity in South Jersey’s economy that makes the area so resilient from a business perspective.
What are your top priorities going forward and what is your outlook for the next 18 months?
Our priorities have not changed dramatically. We maintain our strong focus on ensuring we have a highly engaged and skilled workforce. We are still one of the few banks out there that has a formalized management training program. We are focused on organic growth and we think South Jersey has a lot of opportunities.
Looking at the banking industry in general, it is fair to say that there was a pause on M&A activity during the pandemic. But, I think this activity will accelerate when we start to come out the other side. We are also starting to see a number of business owners re-evaluate where they are and where they want to be in the next five years. This was likely instigated by the pandemic and heightened by talk about an increased capital gains tax. They’re making more plans around ownership transition, which is driving an increase in activity within our Capital Markets group.
Rates remain very low. If we can deal with the labor shortages and supply chain issues, we feel very optimistic about where things are headed.
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