Last year, toward the end of a lengthy recruiting process, bank executive Thomas Sposito met with the board of Integrity Bank to see if he would be a good fit for the organization.
Afterward, he called his wife from the parking lot.
"I said, 'This is what I want to do,'" he recalled. "I remember thinking, 'I hope this (the interview) went as well as I thought it did.'"
Apparently, it did. In September, Integrity hired Sposito as chief revenue officer.
In that role, he will collaborate with Integrity Chairman, President and CEO James Gibson to grow the 9½-year-old bank's business and extend it into new market areas.
He also is Gibson's designated successor. Gibson, 57, said he doesn't plan to retire soon, but he doesn't want to be working 70-hour weeks a decade from now, either. Sometime in the next three to six years or so, he intends to step back into the chairman's role and hand off daily executive control to Sposito.
Gibson said he spent about three years recruiting Sposito. The two men have known each other for a long time, and they traded compliments effusively at a recent joint interview. Summed up Sposito: "We like each other a lot."
Sposito, 49, has served at banks large and small and has an impressive background in finance, lending and management, said George Millward, managing director at New Jersey-based financial industry consulting firm The Kafafian Group Inc.
His breadth of experience "makes him a strong candidate to be a leader of a bank," Millward said.
Sposito began in the mid-1980s at Reading-based Meridian Bank, which CoreStates acquired in 1996. That year, Sposito joined Third Federal Bank, based just outside Newtown in Bucks County. (CoreStates became part of Wachovia, which was absorbed by Wells Fargo.)
In January 2001, Sposito took the helm of Pennsylvania State Bank, a Camp Hill-based bank founded in 1989.
At the time, Pennsylvania State was struggling with bad loans, a dispute with its CEO and expansion plans that weren't going as planned. It was a forbidding scenario for any incoming CEO, let alone a young one.
"Very few people run into a burning building," Sposito said.
But the ones who do sometimes put out the fire. Sposito presided over a turnaround that led to record profits and a successful sale to Sterling Financial Corp., the parent company of Bank of Lancaster County, in 2004.
Three years later, Sterling was rocked by the discovery that executives at a subsidiary, Equipment Finance, had set up an elaborate loan fraud. The scheme cost Sterling more than $50 million, federal investigators determined. Eight EFI employees have pleaded guilty in the case; six have been sentenced.
Sposito was among the Sterling executives who assessed the situation, worked to reassure regulators and maneuvered the company to safe shores via a sale to PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in 2008. He called his crisis management at Sterling "some of the best work of my life."
PNC indicated its faith in Sposito by bringing him on board. Sposito said he loved it at PNC, where he served as Central Pennsylvania retail banking market manager, but he decided he craved a leadership role, something with more entrepreneurial opportunities.
Those opportunities should abound at Integrity Bank. Its assets stood at $660 million as of Sept. 30; Gibson said he aims to grow that to $1 billion in the near future.
Integrity's bread and butter is commercial real estate lending, Millward said. Many banks with a similar focus stumbled during the recession, ending up with numerous bad loans as construction projects stalled. Integrity did not.
"They weathered it pretty well," Millward said.
Indeed, Integrity's ratio of noncurrent loans to loans was 0.53 percent as of September, compared with a national average of 3.85 percent, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.
Integrity has an enviable efficiency ratio, he said. It costs Integrity 49 cents to 54 cents to earn $1 of revenue, compared with 65 cents to 70 cents for peer institutions, he said.
The bank has hired two loan officers in the past 90 days and has offers out to three more, he said. It is at various stages of negotiation on four sites for new branches.
Many startup banks plateau or sell out to larger banks, but Integrity seeks a different path, one in which growth yields freedom and opportunities, Gibson said.
"We control our destiny through our performance," he said.