By: Yolanda Rivas
2 min read anuary 2020 — Parke Bank is expanding its lending business, including construction lending, from the South Jersey and Philadelphia areas to North Jersey and New York’s Brooklyn and the Bronx with its lending expertise. Parke Bank has a major Asian client base, which makes it important to keep a careful eye on the politics of the country toward China. Parke is also one of the few banks that provide banking services to the cannabis industry, which also requires careful monitoring of Washington’s ever changing position on the emerging cannabis business, says Vito Pantilione, president & CEO of Parke Bank, in an interview with Invest:.
What main changes have you observed in the banking and loan business in the South Jersey market?
We are in a great location to provide lending and banking services in New Jersey, and the Philadelphia area, in addition to expanding up into the Lehigh Valley area. Because of our growth, we’ve also grown our lending operation to North Jersey, Brooklyn and the Bronx.
The banking industry is always changing, I don’t think there is any other industry except maybe insurance where there are as many regulatory changes. There is also a lot more competition, even from nonbanking entities. We embrace competition because it makes you pay more attention and sharpen your pencil.
What services are most in demand for an institution like Parke Bank?
One of the services we’ve offered since we opened the bank is construction lending. It is a very attractive product, especially because many banks have discontinued this banking product. Even though the regulations for construction lending have become much more stringent, our structure allows us to handle it because we are well-capitalized and we have the experience and expertise. We find that our construction lending product is very attractive in the Philadelphia and South Jersey area and most recently in the Bronx and Brooklyn. We carefully entered the Bronx and Brooklyn markets and now have multiple multifamily projects and commercial loans in these areas.
How does the bank support the small business community in South Jersey?
We are very active in commercial lending, which includes small business lending. Some of our commercial lending is related to real estate as we have financed many investment properties. We also look at some of the South Jersey markets that need extra services, like startup companies and small companies that need to expand to remain competitive, where it is more difficult to get financing. We look at those sectors and try to establish loans and banking relationships to help support those markets.
Small business lending is important to us. We are a Small Business Administration (SBA) lender, which allows us to provide funding for projects to small businesses that may not fit into the standard bank financing. The SBA is a perfect vehicle to provide the needed credit enhancement to make those loans possible. That type of lending with small business banking also provides the opportunity for full service banking, bringing much needed deposits.
Are there any worries or challenges in the banking industry that Parke Bank is watching?
One area in which we’ve been very fortunate is our Asian business. I used to be president of a Chinese bank in Philadelphia, and when I opened this bank in 1999, I was fortunate that a lot of my clients and friends from the Asian bank followed us to Parke Bank. The current Chinese trade situation with the United States is a concern to me personally, which can reduce growth in the Asian market. As far as actual business, it has not really affected us that I can see. We are still getting new Asian customers and we have a branch right in the heart of Chinatown in Philadelphia, with a multilingual staff. We are very proud of that.
Another potential challenge is the Banking Secrecy Act, which is of major importance to us because we are one of the few banks in the country to provide banking services to the cannabis industry. We entered the market totally by accident because we had a major customer of the bank who received a permit to open a cannabis dispensary and asked us to finance the building. We loaned him millions of dollars over the years and it wasn’t until two years later that we realized what a major step that was for Parke Bank. At that time, we were one of the very few banks that was even banking cannabis. Now we have about 130 customers, and that is an industry where government regulations are having a big impact. We are very careful to follow the regulations that are in place, given there are really no clear regulations yet in place because it is not legal at the federal level. We are a state-chartered bank doing business with state-approved cannabis businesses.
To learn more about our interviewee, visit:
Parke Bank: https://www.parkebank.com/