Local bank names CEO

Geisel to succeed Martin as chief at Provident

Retiring executive led growth

Company's earnings rose 21.3% in third quarter

October 17, 2002|By Bill Atkinson | Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Provident Bankshares Corp., the state's second-largest independent banking company, named Gary N. Geisel chairman and chief executive officer yesterday.

Geisel will replace Peter M. Martin, who is retiring in April after 12 years at the Baltimore bank, the last four years as CEO.

"I think [the bank] is in excellent shape," Martin said. "We have very good management here. Gary is very capable. He knows the business. I would be very reluctant to leave it if I didn't think it was in good hands."

Kevin G. Byrnes, a retired banker in Rochester, N.Y., will take over Geisel's posts of president and chief operating officer.

Martin is stepping down because he has reached the customary retirement age of 65, he said. He will spend time in Maine, where he has a house and owns a marina in Kennebunkport.

Martin will remain on Provident's board and will monitor his investment in the bank. He owns 121,000 shares that are worth about $2.5 million.

"Not only do I have a strong affection for this institution, I have a big investment in it," Martin said.

Martin, who has been a banker for more than 30 years, joined Provident in 1990 as president and chief operating officer after working at Equitable Bank in Baltimore and the Bank of Boston in Massachusetts.

He and Carl W. Stearn, Provident's former chairman and chief executive, are credited with turning a once-struggling thrift into a growing bank that today has nearly $5 billion in assets, 1,700 employees and 101 branches in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Pennsylvania.

"I thought he did very well," said Collyn Bement Gilbert, a banking analyst at Ryan, Beck & Co. LLC in Conshohocken, Pa.

"If you look at where the company was in terms of profitability and structure of the balance sheet ... he has really transformed that bank from an under-performing thrift to a better-performing bank."

Geisel's task is to move Provident forward, improving its earnings and growing market share.

He joined the company in 1997 as group manager of community banking.

Two years later, Geisel, 54, was named to the three-member office of the chairman, and in January 2001 he was promoted to president and chief operating officer.

Led drive in D.C. area

He directed Provident's acquisition of First Citizens Financial Corp. of Gaithersburg in 1997 and has led the bank's expansion into the Washington area.

"I think Gary will do great," said Jeffrey R. Springer, Geisel's former boss at Citizens Bancorp in Laurel, which was sold in 1996. "I think he has excellent leadership skills. I think he has the ability to visualize the future for the institution."

Springer said Geisel would not change Provident for change's sake.

"On the other hand, he is a person who looks for opportunities and is willing to ... take it forward," he said.

Byrnes, 55, who will start the new job Nov. 1, previously held regional management jobs with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.

He was also regional executive for Chase Bank in upstate New York and president and chief executive of Chase Bank of Maryland.

`A good fit'

"We just felt that his background in Maryland and his personality ... was a good fit," Martin said.

Provident also reported yesterday a third-quarter profit of $13.1 million, up 21.3 percent, from $10.8 million in the corresponding period a year earlier.

Provident made 52 cents per diluted share, up 27 percent, from the 41 cents reported a year earlier.

"These numbers look very good," Gilbert said. "To me, the strengths in the quarter were good expense controls, improved credit quality and a more profitable mix of earnings assets. Looking at these numbers, it doesn't indicate that we are in any type of recession."

In the first nine months of the year, Provident's profit rose 20.6 percent, to $35 million, compared with $29 million a year earlier.

Provident made $1.36 per diluted share, 21.4 percent more than in the comparable period last year.

The company's core loans were up 12.7 percent in the third quarter, to $1.7 billion. Core deposits were 5.8 percent higher, at $2.7 billion, than in the corresponding period in 2001.

On `right track'

Martin was pleased with Provident's third-quarter performance. "I think it shows we are on the right track, our strategies are effective," he said. "We are taking this organization to a new level."

Provident's shares gained 15.3 cents yesterday to close at $20.98 on the Nasdaq stock market.

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