Shares of Citizens Financial Group, the $128 billion Rhode Island-based company that owns Citizens Bank of Pennsylvania and naming rights to the Phillies' stadium, are up 13 percent since an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange in September.
That beats the KBW Index of big-bank stocks, which has been flat during the same period, as low interest rates have squeezed bank profits. Citizens sold more shares last week, raising more than $3 billion for its past owner, Royal Bank of Scotland, which plans to sell its remaining stock by next year.
Citizens appeals to investors as a "turnaround" story, says Bruce Van Saun, the New Jersey native who serves as chief executive officer. Rising share values show "our strategy is working, and investors want to own the stock," he tells me, citing higher profits in each of its first two quarters as a public company.
Regulators ordered U.K.-based Royal Bank of Scotland to sell its U.S. operations in exchange for a government bailout during the financial crisis of the late 2000s.
"Citizens was undermanaged as part of RBS. We've got a good team, a good plan" now, Van Saun says. He has hired a team of New York bankers, led by Eric Abouaf, from Citigroup, as chief financial officer, and Donald McCree, from JPMorgan Chase & Co., who will run commercial banking.
Citizens Bank has 166 branches in the Philadelphia area, many inherited from long-vanished local institutions such as PSFS and Girard Bank. That's down from 179 branches locally 10 years ago.
"The number of points of presence we have now is about right," Van Saun says. "We do need to work on the size. There is too much space in a typical branch. It's configured the way banking was done yesterday and not how banking needs to be done. We are shrinking the square footage. We will have more private meeting space to meet with specialists, and less devoted to teller platforms," since more people now bank online.
"But the customer wants everything," he acknowledges. "They want the branch, and a great mobile experience, and a good online capacity, 24/7. We need to work hard to make each of those channels work for our customers."
With offices spread from New England into the Midwest, Van Saun spends a lot of time on the road. "I'll be in Philadelphia for the Phillies' opening day, April 6," he promises.
Gone to Jersey
A pair of top executives have left David Adelman's Campus Apartments, the West Philadelphia firm that houses 32,000 college students in 24 states, to join upstart rival University Student Living in Marlton.
Barrie Nichols, formerly a Campus Apartments vice president, is now vice president for leasing and marketing at University Student Living, says Dale McCullough, director of corporate marketing.
Heather Sizemore has left her Campus Apartments job as national director of residence life and is now vice president of operations at the Marlton company.
University Student Living is part of the Michaels Organization, a group of specialized development companies founded by Michael Levitt. The university group has $1.4 billion in new student-housing projects under construction, McCullough tells me.
The executive departures will not affect the direction of the company, Campus spokeswoman Erin Allsman says.