FREMONT — The planned opening of a loan office in Fremont could lead to other locations in West Michigan for Edgewater Bank.
The Fremont loan office will become the first location for the St. Joseph-based Edgewater Bank outside of its home market in Berrien County.
While Edgewater does not plan to aggressively add locations, the bank “will expand geographically for the right opportunity,” President and CEO Richard Dyer said. Those opportunities could come in smaller communities where a community bank fits with the market, he said.
“I have a pretty good appreciation for those kinds of markets,” said Dyer, a long-time banker in the West Michigan area whose career includes time with the former First Michigan Bank, or FMB.
“Other markets like a Fremont, we have our eyes open just watching,” he said. “We’re not in an aggressive expansion mode, but we will take advantage of opportunities that might present themselves to us where our style of banking fits that community.”
Dyer joined Edgewater as CEO a decade ago and led a turnaround of the troubled bank. He previously worked in smaller markets in the southwest quarter of the Lower Peninsula and also once ran retail banking and commercial lending in Michigan for Huntington Bank following its acquisition of FMB in 1997.
During his nearly 40-year career, Dyer said he became familiar with a regional market that stretches from Muskegon and Fremont to the north and the Michigan-Indiana border to the south.
Moving into larger markets such as Kalamazoo or Grand Rapids, where a number of community banks have opened offices in the last few years, “doesn’t make sense,” Dyer said.
“We’re going to kind of set our own little road,” he said. “I know the western and southwestern parts of the state fairly well and will take advantage of market knowledge and knowledge of good bankers in the market to strategically position Edgewater for success.”
Edgewater Bank has five offices in Berrien County, in the southwest corner of the Lower Peninsula. The bank had $154.6 million in total assets and $138.2 million in deposits, according to a first quarter financial report filed with the FDIC.
Earnings have grown in recent years. Edgewater Bancorp Inc. (OTC PINK: EGDW) recorded $285,000 in net income for the first quarter and $704,000 for all of 2017, which compares to $450,000 in 2016 and $365,000 in 2015.
In Fremont, the new loan office could eventually transition into a full-service bank branch for Edgewater, a move that hinges on how well the business performs and growth in lending volume.
“The more success we have, obviously, the more likely it is that we would expand what we’re doing in that market,” Dyer said. “We’ll see how things go. I would say it’s at least a year out, though.”
Edgewater hired Donald Farmer, a 38-year banking veteran and 30-year Fremont resident, as senior vice president to lead the loan office.
Dyer once served as president and CEO of FMB-Old State Bank of Fremont and still owns a summer home in Fremont. He and Farmer have known each other for years. A conversation the two had last year about banking led Farmer to go to work for Edgewater, and to the opening of the Fremont loan office.
Launching the loan office in Fremont “just seemed to be a natural fit for us,” Dyer said.
“Clearly, we are being opportunistic given our connection to Fremont and the ability to bring on a very seasoned and qualified lender for the market,” Dyer said. “We feel success comes from understanding the market, having the right person in the market, and letting him or her do their thing.”