Vernon Hill named CEO of Republic First in Philadelphia

Republic First Bancorp in Philadelphia said Wednesday that industry veteran and current chairman, Vernon Hill, has become its chief executive officer.

Hill replaced Harry Madonna, who will stay at the company as president and chairman emeritus. Madonna, 77, founded the bank in 1988.

Hill, 74, founded Commerce Bank in Cherry Hill, N.J., in 1973 and built it into a regional powerhouse before being forced to resign as chairman, president and CEO in 2008 in the wake of a regulatory investigation into payments Commerce made to Hill’s wife’s architectural and design firm. The $47 billion-asset Commerce was sold to TD Bank in 2008 for $8.5 billion.

For several years, Vernon Hill, pictured here in 2018, simultaneously served as chairman of Republic First Bancorp in Philadelphia and Metro Bank in the United Kingdom.


After leaving Commerce, Hill began consulting for Republic First and became its chairman in 2016. He also founded Metro Bank in London in 2010 and found instant success by following the Commerce model of blanketing its markets with branches, paying above-average rates and keeping branches open nights and weekends.

He took Metro Bank public in 2016, but a few years later found himself in hot water with British regulators for, again, paying his wife’s architectural firm for design services, as well as other matters. Hill stepped down as Metro’s chairman in 2019.

Even as he was disrupting the British banking landscape, Hill worked closely with Madonna to build Republic First from a $700 million-asset bank with eight branches to what is now a $5 billion-asset company with 31 branches.

In a press release, Hill said that, since he joined Republic First in 2008, “we’ve transformed a traditional commercial bank into a customer-centric retail institution that embraces service, convenience and innovation, creating fans, not customers.”

Piper Sandler analyst Frank Schiraldi said in a note to clients that the transition from Madonna to Hill should be seamless.

Given Hill’s “already significant involvement in the day-to-day, we see little change to outlook and think the announcement is in many ways a natural progression for the bank,” Schiraldi said. Hill “was also the most-active board chairman in our space, which included running the quarterly earnings call, and we see little change to operations or communication with” investors and analysts.

Schiraldi said Republic First could be an attractive target for larger banks, given its proven growth trajectory over the last several years. The company’s footprint spans Philadelphia, Southern New Jersey and New York City — among the most heavily populated markets in the country.

But Hill’s “continued involvement” signals the company intends to stay on its current path, and it could be some time before “the torch is eventually passed to the next generation of bankers,” Schiraldi said.

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