Search I95 Business Magazine




1st Mariner: Exceeding Expectations
New Leadership Attracts Area Talent

August 2016

Much has changed at 1st Mariner Bank over the last two years when a group of investors, led by 1st Mariner Chairman and CEO Jack Steil and President and Chief Operating Officer Robert Kunisch, acquired the bank.

Deborah Williams, V.P. Commercial Banking

Deborah Williams, V.P. Commercial Banking

Through strategic changes, the bank has found itself in a much improved position to help its customers reach their financial goals through personalized service and a sharper focus on relationship-based banking. What hasn’t changed is the value 1st Mariner places on its customers. That focus on “relationship” is something the bank has always been proud of, and when the new ownership took over the bank, they set about to preserve and improve the company culture of business relationships over transactional business.

1st Mariner Bank is the largest independently owned bank in Baltimore City. It operates 14 full service bank branches in Baltimore, Anne Arundel, Harford and Howard counties in Maryland, and the City of Baltimore. 1st Mariner Mortgage, a division of 1st Mariner Bank, operates retail offices in Central Maryland, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and portions of Northern Virginia. 1st Mariner Mortgage also operates, and direct marketing mortgage operations in Baltimore.

Today, 1st Mariner is flourishing under new management and leadership, including a new chief financial officer, chief credit officer and chief lending officer, as well as several new private bankers and commercial loan officers who joined the team from the regions’ top banks. Along with these additions came a shift in the bank’s culture, which continues to attract the area’s best in banking. The result is that 1st Mariner is performing beyond expectations.

1st Mariner leaders are experienced veterans of Baltimore’s banking community with a unique perspective on overcoming business challenges. They’re among the top bankers in the state of Maryland. “Every member of our executive management team has been a relationship manager at some point in their career,” says Senior Vice President and Regional Manager of commercial banking Eric Johnson. “They know firsthand what it’s like to work directly with customers.”

Because of the bank’s focus on building and maintaining relationships, it is important for everyone coming into the 1st Mariner family to be experienced, friendly and service-driven, with ties to the local communities. To accomplish this, 1st Mariner is adding select banking professionals to its ranks, with a particular interest in expanding its lending team.

Most recently, the bank brought on Deborah Smith Williams as Vice President of Commercial Banking for the Northeast/Harford County markets. In this role, Williams will be responsible for expanding the bank’s market share and visibility in a market that she has worked and lived in for the past 25 years. A well-known and respected figure within the Harford business community, Williams has dedicated considerable time to civic, charitable and communit

Jack Steil, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Robert Kunisch, President and Chief Operating Officer

Jack Steil, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Robert Kunisch, President and Chief Operating Officer

y activities. She currently serves as Vice Chair of Finance on the Harford County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Harford Community College Foundation Board, Harford County Public Library Foundation Board and Harford Business Edge Board. She is active in the Bel Air Rotary, where she is a past President and a Paul Harris Fellow recipient. She is also a long-standing member of the Chesapeake Professional Women’s Network.

“We’re excited about expanding along the I-95 corridor, and pleased to have capable individuals like Debi on the team to help us do so,” says Rob Kunisch. “With her experience, market knowledge and commitment to the community, Debi embodies the kind of talent we are looking for to help us continue to build 1st Mariner’s presence in the Harford County community and beyond.”

What Williams finds most rewarding about working at 1st Mariner is the ability to respond quickly to customer’s needs. As a local, independently owned bank, 1st Mariner allows for a more responsive, hands-on approach to doing business. Decision-makers are easily accessible by phone or in person, enabling Williams and her colleagues to attend to their customers’ needs and answer their questions in a timely manner. “Time is money for businesses, and owners need quick responses to their requests,” Williams says.

1st Mariner’s long-standing relationships with the local law and accounting industries further aid in the team’s ability to meet customer’s needs.

Executive Vice President Stewart Lee celebrates the opening of 1st Mariner Bank’s first commercial office in Delaware.

Executive Vice President Stewart Lee celebrates the opening of 1st Mariner Bank’s first commercial office in Delaware.

The knowledge that 1st Mariner works closely with these ‘centers of influence’ can also give customers an added level of comfort during difficult times. “We understand the market and we understand what’s going on in the community, which enables us to be more in step with our customers,” Johnson says. The 1st Mariner Board of Directors also boasts several local business leaders, including James T. Dresher, Josh Fidler, Jennifer W. Reynolds, Gary Dorsch and James Talbott II.

Board of Directors

W. Gary Dorsch
James T. Dresher
Howard Feinglass
Josh Fidler
Boris M. Gutin
Michael B. High
Jennifer W. Reynolds
O. James Talbott, II

As for goals, the 1st Mariner team is tasked with increasing the bank’s visibility in the community and positioning the bank as the first institution that comes to mind when people have a banking need. It starts by cultivating relationships and building trust, and the team at 1st Mariner is committed to doing both. “A great bank is a rare and precious resource, and for a business owner, that is worth its weight in gold,” says Johnson.

As 1st Mariner positions itself for continued growth, customers agree that nothing beats the level of trust and personalized service they’ve come to expect in their local branch. In the words of one branch customer, “They’re friendly, they’re knowledgeable, and they’re helpful. You’re not just a number here.”

“The bank is financially healthy and positioned for growth,” says Jack Steil, Chairman and CEO. “Baltimore and Harford County’s vibrant business climate make it a very attractive area for us to continue to grow organically, and we are looking forward to continuing to expand the bank’s reach by building relationships and providing personalized service. ” I95