The sudden and hushed replacement of senior executives at Sun Bancorp continued with the appointment last month of a new president and chief executive, reuniting a team of New Jersey bankers in the process.
The Vineland, N.J., company announced Feb. 22 that veteran Corestates and First Union executive Thomas A. Bracken had been named president and chief executive, but did not mention what had become of his predecessor, Philip W. Koebig 3d. The news release said only that Mr. Bracken "replaces" Mr. Koebig.
Dan A. Chila, Sun's chief financial officer and a recent hire himself, refused to elaborate, except to say that Mr. Koebig "officially" resigned the day before Mr. Bracken's appointment was announced.
Reached at home, Mr. Koebig would not discuss his departure other than to say it was his own decision.
Under Mr. Koebig, who joined Sun in 1994, the company's assets grew nearly tenfold, to $2 billion, primarily through branch acquisitions. The parent company of Sun National Bank and Sun National Bank Delaware began its acquisition binge in 1993. It gobbled up dozens of branches in southern and central New Jersey, in New Castle, Del., and in Philadelphia. The company now has 73 branches.
In 1999, after opening 14 new branches and acquiring 16, the company decided to take a breather that Mr. Chila said will continue at least until the management completes a review of each branch's profitability.
"The real challenge is making sure we maximize the investment in those branches," said Mr. Bracken, whose first day on the job was last week. "We have developed a good franchise. Now we need to make it profitable."
Mr. Bracken, 53, is the third senior executive to be brought to Sun in less than a year. Last April, Mr. Chila quietly succeeded Robert F. Mack as CFO. Two months ago Jack Neary joined Sun as the head of retail banking. Mr. Bracken, Mr. Chila, and Mr. Neary previously worked together at New Jersey National Bank of Pennington, where Mr. Bracken began his banking career in 1969.
Corestates Financial Corp. bought New Jersey National in 1986, and in 1993 it made Mr. Bracken president and chief executive officer of the still independently operated bank. In 1995 he became president of Corestates' New Jersey market. First Union Corp., which bought Corestates in 1998, named Mr. Bracken head of commercial and government banking for New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut and then head of the company's public-sector group.
The reunited management team is expected to focus on earnings quality and consistency, rather than asset growth. Sun had a couple of earnings hiccups in the past two years. Net income last year fell 9% from a year earlier, to $8.8 million, because of the sale of investment securities.
While loan growth swelled 10%, to $1 billion, and deposits also experienced double-digit growth, to $1.4 billion, Richard D. Weiss, who follows the company for Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia, said Sun underperforms other banking companies of similar size in the mid-Atlantic area.
At 0.43%, Sun's return on assets last year was far below the 1% of its peers, Mr. Weiss said. Its return on equity, which fell 2.23 percentage points, to 8.85%, is well below the 14% of similar-size companies, he said.
Mr. Bracken, who most recently was the executive director of the public sector group at First Union National Bank, has 30 years of banking experience and is properly "seasoned" for his new job, Mr. Weiss said.
Mr. Koebig "was managing in great years, when no one was defaulting on loans and the economy was humming," Mr. Weiss said. "If we hit choppy water," Mr. Bracken "can probably manage through that and make a stronger institution."