How Cheryl Tanenbaum helped lead Intracoastal Bank through the Great Recession

Nobody was going to come and steal our thunder for a while. It allowed us to build our reputation and get our name out there.”
—Cheryl Tanenbaum, Intracoastal Bank

Cheryl Tanenbaum helped organize Intracoastal Bank in the midst of the Great Recession. A successful decade later, she’s investing in the community bank’s future through social media and technology.

By Jolene Johnson

In January 2008, Cheryl Tanenbaum left her job at CypressCoquina Bank in Palm Beach, Fla., to organize the opening of Intracoastal Bank in nearby Palm Coast with former Cypress CEO Bruce Page. The timing of it couldn’t have been more challenging: It was right as the Great Recession was gathering steam.

She and Page wondered if they should scratch their plans. “We didn’t know what the right decision was going to be, but we were too far into it,” Tanenbaum says.

If nothing else, the veteran bankers knew there was a real need for a community bank in Palm Coast. They had started Cypress, a C Corp bank, together in 1999, and it was eventually sold and “turned into a big bank,” Tanenbaum says. This “ended up taking the only community bank out of the community.”

There was no question that local residents wanted a true hometown bank again. To make Intracoastal Bank a reality, board members and their friends and families raised a collective $14 million in capital over a two-week period.

When it opened on June 16, 2008, the outlook was good. There weren’t any overpriced loans on the bank’s books, and Intracoastal, an S Corp bank, had a wide-open playing field. The recession also offered an unexpected benefit.

“Back in the day, there were community banks being opened left and right,” Tanenbaum says. But with the Great Recession, “nobody was going to come and steal our thunder for a while. It allowed us to build “Back in the day, there were community banks being opened left and right,” Tanenbaum says. But with the Great Recession, “nobody was going to come and steal our thunder for a while. It allowed us to build our reputation and get our name out there.”

Almost 10 years later, Intracoastal is a $314 million-asset community bank that offers everything the big banks offer, including checking, saving and money market accounts, plus IRAs and HSAs. “On the lending side, we do a lot of commercial lending; that’s our main niche,” says Tanenbaum, who is the bank’s senior vice president and chief financial officer.

Intracoastal has also established a good reputation in the community. “We built our bank by referrals and by providing great customer service and products,” she says.

To help spread the word, Intracoastal uses social media—and lots of it. When other banks steered clear of the likes of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Yelp, Tanenbaum took advantage of these avenues. “I put us on Facebook because we didn’t have money to pay for advertising,” she explains. “I thought that Facebook is a great way to get your name out there, and you don’t have to pay for it.”

In fact, she was so far ahead of the Facebook curve that she had to teach an FDIC examiner about it. “When I first started doing [Facebook], the FDIC was here examining us, and [the examiner] didn’t know what Facebook was. At the time, they weren’t doing exams that included social media, so I had to explain it all to her and teach her.”

Though a social media presence is now commonplace among most community banks, Tanenbaum works to stay a step ahead. For example, she personally has around 980 Twitter followers and writes a monthly blog post, which she’s been doing since 2012. Topics have included everything from cybersecurity to paying off credit card debt. Customers who visit Intracoastal’s website will find a Community News page that features YouTube videos of two bank employees discussing new products and services, as well as footage of various community events. The page also shines a spotlight on local businesses and bank personnel. And it’s the perfect forum to tell visitors about the bank’s commitment to various United Way campaigns and Take Stock in Children initiatives.

Social skills—Cheryl Tanenbaum’s embrace of social media has played no small part in Intracoastal Bank’s success since its 2008 founding.

The result? Customers feel like they know the employees better, and the bank shows that it’s invested in the community it serves. Thus, camaraderie and trust are built. “We’re a group of bankers who care about our community,” Tanenbaum says. “That’s what it boils down to.”

And customers take note. Intracoastal has won the Flagler/Palm Coast News-Tribune Readers’ Choice Award every year since 2010.

Embracing tech

Tanenbaum credits much of the bank’s success to its embrace of technology. Intracoastal was one of the first banks in the market to offer mobile banking, mobile capture and ATM deposit capture. “Back then, people were still afraid of technology and how the regulators are going to view it,” she says. “We just did our homework and felt comfortable with it, and it helped us grow.”

Technology has also helped the bank keep expenses down. “Some of the other banks in our market that opened at the same time ended up opening five or six branches. And we had just two,” she says. (Intracoastal opened a second branch in Daytona Beach in January 2015.) “So we were able to have a low efficiency ratio.”

“When I first started doing [Facebook], the FDIC was here examining us, and [the examiner] didn’t know what Facebook was. At the time, they weren’t doing exams that included social media, so I had to explain it all to her.”
—Cheryl Tanenbaum, Intracoastal Bank

Many of the banks that were focused on expanding quickly are no longer around. “All of these banks were C Corp, and I think their business plan was to grow fast and sell,” Tanenbaum says.

Meanwhile, Intracoastal is content with its identity as a small community bank that does big things. “Our goal is not to grow and sell. It’s hopefully to pass it on to younger generations,” she says.

And this time, the community bank will stay in the community.


Jolene Johnson is a writer in Minnesota.

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