In the C-Suite: After the Howard-First Mariner deal, Rob Kunisch remains 'opportunistic'

Baltimore Business Journal - 12/10/18

Howard Bank closed on its $163.4 million acquisition of First Mariner Bank in March, but the real work is just getting started. Howard Bank President Rob Kunisch, previously CEO of First Mariner, said employees have been working hard since the deal was completed to fully integrate the two companies.

"This was no small feat because you are talking about integrating hundreds of employees and numerous IT systems all while trying to limit any impact on customers," Kunisch, 50, who was formerly the CEO of First Mariner.

The deal elevated Howard Bank to become the largest community bank in Greater Baltimore with $2.1 billion in assets and 21 branches in the region. But Kunisch says the company isn't slowing down and continues to keep an eye out for potential growth opportunities.

The Baltimore Business Journal caught up with Kunisch to talk about what Howard Bank is looking to do next, and share some of his advice for young professionals in the industry.

What benefits have you seen so far from the acquisition? The merger has created value for our shareholders by elevating Howard Bank’s position in the markets that we currently serve. As the banking industry consolidates and there is more pressure on margins, bigger is better because it allows us to spread expenses relating to things such as compliance and technology across a larger more diversified asset base. This drives better results for our shareholders and allows us to reinvest in critical things like technology to meet the rapidly changing demands of our client base.

The merger has also given us geographical dispersion. At First Mariner Bank where I was CEO, we didn’t have a big market presence in Howard County. Now we do, along with a larger branch network. It is all positive for our clients.

As you continue to finish integrating the two companies, what else is on the table for Howard Bank? We have made significant strides and plan to take advantage of our size and scale. We will also continue to be opportunistic and look at future merger and acquisition activity and continue to look to expand our geographical span. You have to be opportunistic. I think we can expand through acquisitions and team lift-outs and by hiring experienced revenue generating people. We always look to hire the right people. The right people dictate where we go.

 

Also, don’t be afraid to take some risks and air your opinion or tell a group what you think is the best way to go. If you are in sales don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call the president of a corporation you are pursuing. No risk, no reward, as the saying goes.

Do you have a favorite place to visit in Baltimore? The Baltimore Museum of Industry. It presents a tremendous history of Baltimore and highlights industries we lend to every day. The BMI is also one of our clients. I love walking through the museum because it is easy to see and feel how Baltimore was built and the importance of our harbor and shipping industry. Baltimore was built on the shoulders of manufacturing from canning oysters to making steel, shipbuilding, spices, garment, and fuel. It reminds me of where we were and where we are heading and that our economy is dynamic and always changing.

There are so many great things going on in our city like Port Covington, Tradepoint Atlantic, and Harbor East. And of course the emergence of Howard Bank headquartered in Canton. As a banker, I get excited when I see the cranes in the sky throughout the city.

Rob Kunisch

Title: President

Company: Howard Bank

Age: 50

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