25 Years Later, Financial Federal Still Going Strong

Published on: February 2, 2011

Andy Meek, The Daily News

It’s not hard these days to find a local bank trying to attract customers by promising how different it is from the competition.

It is hard, however, to find a bank that can make that claim for as many reasons as Financial Federal, which began its 26th year in business in 2011 with several milestones and announcements that unquestionably help the bank stand out.

Where competitors might be pulling their horns, for example, Financial Federal is doing the opposite. The bank has expanded its commercial/multifamily division with the opening of an origination office in Dallas under the direction of Don Farmer.

The bank had become familiar with Farmer during his stint leading the Dallas office for Bridger Commercial Funding, and Financial Federal’s leadership had several reasons for putting him in charge of the new office.

The bank decided Farmer was “honest, understands real estate and is respected by his peers,” said Jon Van Hoozer, senior vice president and chief underwriter for Financial Federal’s commercial/multifamily division.

Financial Federal CEO Kent Wunderlich said the bank will continue to review other markets for potential expansion opportunities, which means the bank still has the ability and intent to take its services and product offerings to new places.

Speaking of which, those product offerings also are multiplying. The bank, which got its start in 1985, has not operated as a transactional institution like most banks, where a steady stream of customers is constantly pulling up to a drive-through window or approaching tellers to deposit and withdraw cash.

Financial Federal doesn’t even keep cash on the premises.

In the fourth quarter, however, the bank began dipping its toe into an area of business it hasn’t traditionally been involved with, one of the motivations being that the bank wants to see its customers more frequently.

Financial Federal began rolling out money market accounts as the newest addition to its deposit lineup, which already includes certificates of deposit and a variety of loans and credit lines to businesses and individuals.

Bank president William Tayloe said adding the accounts has generated $5 million in deposits so far. Money market accounts typically have higher balance requirements than regular savings accounts, pay higher interest rates and are limited to only a few transactions per month.

Meanwhile, Tayloe said Financial Federal’s residential division closed $112 million in loans in 2010, and the commercial/multifamily division closed $200 million in 2010.

Large deals recently completed include financing the 160-unit Ellington at Kirby Apartments in Memphis with a $3.65 million loan and the 231-unit Embassy Apartments in Memphis with a $7.75 million loan.

Financial Federal remains in the transactions as a servicing correspondent.

“The secondary market’s coming back a little bit,” Tayloe said. “The multifamily segment in particular has been strong. We closed several large deals this past year, and hopefully that’s something that will continue in 2011.

“I’d say, overall, it was a good year. A profitable year.”

Financial Federal, which is owned by Memphis’ Wunderlich and Montesi families, has a deep bench of employees that includes many with more than 10 years at the bank.

The bank’s commercial and multifamily division services more than $1 billion in loans for properties spread from coast to coast.

To help tell its story – and solidify its uniqueness among local financial institutions – Financial Federal recently made a targeted marketing push that includes ads built around the phrase “What is it?” – which, like many features of its operation, refers to the seemingly indefinable quality the bank believes sets it apart from the rest.