Coastal raised capital in 2010 not through trimming its balance sheet but in the marketplace.
"That told us we were doing things right," Wiley said. "To raise money from investors given the situation showed their faith in what we were doing."
Look in the mirror
Coastal also looked internally for improvement.
The bank introduced what LaHaise calls a "bootstrap strategy" in 2011. The goal was to increase profitability by maximizing revenues across all income streams while cutting expenses.
Coastal made the risky decision to alter its fee income structure and offer innovative mortgage products as well as manage its cash stringently. The bank cut overhead by reducing its workforce through attrition.
Coastal invested in technology advances related to online banking and security. The bank will "leverage that technology" going forward, LaHaise said. The bank's deposit base is growing.
"We have built an organization that can adapt to the speed of change," he said. "If you can't get faster, you're going to get behind faster. So we have had to be as aggressive as possible when it comes to technology."
Among the changes for Coastal Bank recently is leadership. Wiley accepted a job in October with Atlanta-based State Bank & Trust. He remains as the chairman of Coastal's board of directors. LaHaise was named his successor in what has been a "seamless transition."
"Culturally, we are very similar," Wiley said of LaHaise. "He has his own methods, of course, but the strategy going forward remains -- this bank is going to play more offense than defense."
BEST OF SAVANNAH BUSINESS 2012
All this week, the Savannah Morning News will profile companies and organizations that made major contributions to the local business environment in the past year. The Exchange staff chose the honorees -- from a list of nominees submitted by local business and community leaders -- utilizing broad criteria, from growth and success to philanthropy and community involvement.
Thursday: Savannah Slow Ride (Newcomer of the Year)
Wednesday: World Trade Center Savannah (Advocate of the Year)
Today: The Coastal Bank (Comeback Business of the Year)
Friday: JCB Apprenticeship Program (Educational Partner of the Year)
Saturday: Wet Willie's (Entrepreneurial Business of the Year)
Sunday: LMI Aerospace (Manufacturer of the Year)
COMEBACK BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Winner: The Coastal Bank
Leader: Jim LaHaise (CEO), Tom Wiley (chairman)
Business sector: Banking
2012 Revenue (projected): $24 million
2012 Accomplishments: The Coastal Bank is on pace to post an annual profit after losing more than $10 million in the previous three years during the largest banking crisis in a half-century. The second-largest locally owned community bank in the Savannah area, The Coastal Bank is growing while its peers have shrunk to improve their capital standing.
The bank debuted many technological advances for customers this year, including IronKey Trusted Access, a secure Web browser for online banking designed to prevent identity theft, payments frauds and online banking account takeover. Coastal also introduced several customized mortgage products catering to homebuyers.
The Coastal Bank changed leadership late in the year, with Tom Wiley stepping down as president and CEO to accept a similar position with State Bank & Trust in Atlanta. Wiley's top lieutenant, Jim LaHaise, was chosen to lead the bank.
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