Customers Bank promotes Frost to executive vice president, CAO

Jennifer Frost. PHOTO/PROVIDED


West Reading-based Customers Bank announced that Jennifer Frost has been promoted to executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

She was previously senior vice president, deputy chief administrative officer at the bank, where she promoted efforts to digitize operations, processes, products and services. Frost will also be joining the institution’s management board as part of her new job.

“Customers Bank is continuing to grow, and we are excited to elevate Jenn within the institution,” Sam Sidhu, vice chairman and chief operating officer, said in a release. “Jenn has been a leader of our digitization and we look forward to her continued dedication to our customers and the contributions she will bring to the management board to increase our franchise value.”

Frost has spent more than 20 years in senior leadership roles. Earlier in her career, she held executive positions at QNB Bank, Republic First Bank and J.P. Morgan.

She is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Villanova University and the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at the University of Pennsylvania. An active member of the community, Frost was also a recipient of Lehigh Valley Business’ 40 Under 40 award.

Customers Bank, a subsidiary of Customers Bancorp Inc., reported assets of approximately $18.8 billion at the end of the first quarter.

Customers Bank is expanding into Orlando, Dallas and Chicago

Customers Bank, headquartered in West Reading, is expanding to Florida and Texas and extending its presence in the Midwest. The bank will open branches in Orlando, Dallas, and Chicago, according to a release.

Customers Bank specializes in serving the needs of small and medium business enterprises with revenue from $5 million and $100 million. Products and services include financing for working capital, owner-occupied real estate and investment real estate.

The bank’s teams have industry expertise in such areas as financial and investment management; property management and related associations; medical, dental and veterinary practices; private schools and colleges; transportation and logistics; and financial technology/specialty finance.

To support the Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program, Customers Bank introduced a hybrid financial technology model that enabled the bank to participate in more than 314,000 approved PPP loans worth a total of more than $9.6 billion.

As of March 31, Customers Bank, a subsidiary of Customers Bancorp Inc., had assets of approximately $18.8 billion.

Samvir Sidhu to take over as president and CEO of Customers Bank in July

Samvir Sidhu


Samvir Sidhu has been tapped to replace Richard Ehst as president and CEO of Customers Bank, a subsidiary of Customers Bancorp Inc. of Reading.

Ehst is retiring after more than 50 years in the banking industry. Sidhu will be take over for Ehst July 1.

Ehst began his banking career in 1968 with First Valley Bank in Bethlehem following his service as a Marine during the Vietnam War.

Ehst joined Customers Bank soon after it was formed in 2009. He was named CEO in 2020.

“I am taking over from a banking icon,” Samvir Sidhu said in a release. “Dick has been unselfish in sharing with me his wisdom and insight, while encouraging me to follow my instincts and strike out in new directions for the bank. I am excited about the bank’s future and our opportunities. I am indebted to Dick for putting us in a position to achieve even greater success.”

Sidhu is currently vice chairman and chief operating officer of the bank, he is the son of Jay Sidhu, founder and chairman of Customers Bancorp Inc. and Customers Bank.

Sam Sidhu served as a board member of Customers Bank for eight years prior to joining the bank’s executive management team.

He was the founder and chief executive of Megalith Financial Corp., a financial technology-based special purpose acquisition company.

Prior to that he worked at Providence Equity Partners and Goldman Sachs.

He earned an MBA from Harvard Business School and a B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

Customers Bank contributes $150K to support Alvernia’s Reading Youth Initiative

From left: Richard Ehst, president and Chief Executive Officer of Customers Bank; Dr. Rudy Ruth, executive director of Alvernia University’s Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement; Thomas Minick, vice president for Institutional Advancement; Dr. Jennifer Murray, assistant superintendent for Teaching and Learning for the Reading School District; Dr. April Halligan-Rostek principal of Millmont Elementary School; John R. Loyack, president of Alvernia University; Laura Cordero, Reading Youth Initiative program manager; and AnNette Hines, director of Cultural Advancement for Customers Bank.


Customers Bank contributed $150,000 to support the Reading Youth Initiative, a long-time program of Alvernia University and the Reading School District that supports inner-city children and programs.

Initiated in 2006, the Reading Youth Initiative has served more than 1,100 students by offering literacy training, homework assistance, academic enrichment activities and mentoring programs. The program also provides summer camps and opportunities for a variety of cultural activities, including museum visits, sporting events and educational field trips.

Administered through Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community and Global Engagement, the Reading Youth Initiative serves students from Millmont Elementary School, Tyson-Schoener Elementary School, and the St. Peter School, where the program began. Rudy Ruth, executive director for the Holleran Center, thanked the bank for its contribution.

“Alvernia University and the Holleran Center continue to be very appreciative of the generous support we receive from Customers Bank,” Ruth said. “Customers Bank’s continued support affords Alvernia the opportunity to partner with the Reading School District through impactful, student-focused programming.”

Funding, which Customers gave as part of the Pennsylvania Educational Improvement Tax Credit Program, will be used to expand services and hire professional staff for ongoing support. John Loyack, university president, said the funds will help the university continue to grow the program.

“Customers Bank is a valued partner, and we appreciate their longstanding collaboration as the university continues to expand its mission-based academic and community initiatives,” Loyack said.

Richard Ehst, president and CEO of Customers Bank, said the contribution will help strengthen the community and assure a strong workforce for the future.

“Helping students gain access to better educational opportunities and afterschool programs helps prepare them for continuing their education, so they are able to enter the workforce and provide meaningful contributions back to their communities,” Ehst said.

Customers Bank turns to fintech to help small businesses with PPP loans

During the first round of Paycheck Protection Loans last year, Customers Bank of West Reading was able to assist in more than 100,000 PPP loans totaling more than $5 billion.

That put the small Berks County bank into the top echelons of the nation’s PPP lenders, with the fifth highest number of loans. But at the same time, the loans Customers Bank handled represented the second lowest average loan size. That’s because the bank was helping smaller businesses having difficulty finding help with PPP loans.

“People didn’t understand how this small bank from Berks County could have so many loans up against the big guys,” said Miguel Alban, senior vice president and director of Multicultural Banking.

The answer, according to Michele Vervlied, managing director of Government Guaranteed Lending, was the bank’s partnership with several fintech companies to create an easy-to-use bundle of online services that can help manage the PPP application process through origination, servicing and forgiveness.

The service was able to help Customers Bank simplify the process for smaller businesses – especially those in low income areas – who wouldn’t have the same resources as a larger business.

“We helped everyone, whether they were customers or not,” said Alban. “We put an emphasis on helping the underserved and minority businesses.”

Those small business owners were in many cases left out in the cold because they didn’t have a relationship with a bank that could assist them with the Small Business Administration-backed loans, he said. Banks were too busy with existing customers and many of the business owners were unsure how to proceed.

“The larger businesses already have the banking relationship and it’s easier for them to provide information,” said Vervlied. “This digital process really helped with the first round of PPP.

But even with all of Customers Bank’s best efforts, they can only get to so many small businesses. Alban was tasked with reaching out to other institutions that serve small and minority-owned businesses to get the word out about their system, offering it as a White Label turnkey solution that banks, community development Lenders or even chambers of commerce could offer those they serve.

With President Joe Biden recently announcing  a $1.9 trillion relief package, which, if passed, would offer a “second draw” of PPP funds, Vervlied said the bank is hoping more lenders get on board to offer the simplified process to smaller businesses.

“We’re already reaching a broad range of businesses that we were not able to reach through the first round of loans,” Vervlied said.

So far, Alban said, 25 organizations have signed on to use the program including a $50 billion bank, a top-5 bank and several chambers of commerce, including Long Island African American Chamber, Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber and the Black Delaware Chamber.  These relationships allow those seeking loans to apply through the website of an organization they know and trust rather than a bank they don’t know, he said.

With these partners, some of which are co-branded with Customers Bank, and some of which are being created under the organizations’ names and accessed through their websites, Customers has been able to reach small businesses in parts of the country it normally would never had been able to help.

“We only have enough resources to reach out to so many small businesses,” Alban said.

With these other partners, who know the people behind the businesses they serve, Customers can have connections to something like a small start-up in Chicago that needs help obtaining PPP funds that the bank otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

While Customers Bank does receive fees from the SBA for handling the loans, Alban said it is a relatively small amount compared to the amount of work that goes into handling a PPP loan from start to finish.

The program it is using cuts down on the work and makes the process easier and more efficient for everyone. But, he said, it also isn’t all about making money off loans.

“We want to do this because it’s the right thing to do even if it’s not really making us a lot of money,” Alban said.

It’s part of Customer’s Banks mission to service underbanked minority populations that often are wary of handing their money or financial information over to banks, he said.

“We serve the minority communities. We speak what they speak. We look like they look,” he said. “Minorities will become the majority someday and if we don’t do the right thing for the right reason we’re going to miss that boat.”

By investing time and resources into those small businesses now, the bank hopes they will remember who helped them stay with Customers Bank when they become successful, growing the bank’s business organically.

Using fintech to help small businesses get their share of the federal assistance is one step in that direction.

Customers Bank says BankMobile’s merge with Megalith Financial ‘on track’ for close of 2020

Customers Bank says it’s on track to divest from its mobile banking platform, BankMobile Technologies, by the close of 2020, as BankMobile merges with blank check firm Megalith Financial Acquisition Corp.

Through partnerships with large companies with established brand equity and loyal customer bases, Megalith is looking to BankMobile’s technology to significantly reduce customer acquisition costs while providing substantial benefits to business partners. BankMobile CEO Luvleen Sidhu told investors in August that BankMobile’s current customer acquisition costs reportedly average at less than $10 per new account.

Sidhu said there’s an opportunity to “disrupt” the U.S. banking market with BankMobile’s business-to-business-to-customer strategy, with consumer banking preferences changing faster than many lending institutions can adapt.

“Large banks are continuing to battle customer dissatisfaction, while small banks are struggling to acquire customers,” Sidhu said. “Through our banking-as-a-service strategy, we are well positioned to compete with both larger and smaller banks through our high-volume, low-cost customer acquisition strategy.”

BankMobile’s merge with Megalith will make the newly created company, BM Technologies, public, with an expected listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares in the newly formed company have been valued at $10.38.

“We believe that BankMobile’s approach to collaborate with distribution partners and partner banks, positions it well to continue to grow as an increasing number of non-banks are looking to offer financial services to their existing customers,” said Megalith CEO A.J. Dunklau.

“Accordingly, we believe that the opportunity to bring BankMobile to the public markets as a stand-alone company is highly attractive.”

There’s been rapid growth of digital banking platforms as customers search for less burdensome access to banking services, Dunklau said. Many consumers are preferring to engage with tech companies offering banking services with FDIC-insured sponsor banks, he said.

“These challenger banks, or neo-banks, which we refer to as digital banking platforms, are highly attractive to consumers who find the technology-driven approach to be extremely consumer-friendly and importantly can offer lower fees to consumers as they are not saddled with the historical bank branch networks,” Dunklau told investors.

The merger will provide Customers Bank with approximately $97 million in cash and stock and a roughly $10 million technology license with BankMobile, according to Megalith’s disclosure with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Customers Bank could be repaid a portion of the $40 million debt owed to it by BankMobile, with the newly formed company assuming any unpaid debt.

With Customers Bank CEO Jay Sidhu occupying a sponsorship and board role for Megalith, both Megalith and Customers appointed independent committees to approve the transaction.

Launched in 2015, BankMobile now has more than 2 million accounts.

Plans to spin off BankMobile division accelerated at the close of 2019 when Customers Bank reached the $10 billion threshold that subjects it and its wholly-owned subsidiaries to restrictions from the Dodd-Frank reform’s Durbin Amendment, according to a recent presentation to investors. The Durbin Amendment rule limits fees on debit card transactions, which BankMobile relies on for profitability.

BankMobile on Sept. 24 a partnership with BenefitHub to offer new financial wellness services as an additional benefits to clients. Earlier this year, BankMobile announced an agreement with Google to introduce digital bank accounts, which will be available to its customers.

“In an era when digital banking continues to expand, we look forward to building our business over the coming years and taking advantage of all strategic opportunities,” Sidhu said.

Capco Managing Principal Holmquist recruited as Customers Bank’s risk chief

Eric Holmquist was recruited in July to work as Customers Bank’s new Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer, bringing more than 35 years of experience in the financial services sector to the job. He will be responsible for the design and execution of the Wyomissing-based bank’s enterprise risk management program.

Officials said in a statement Friday they are looking to Holmquist to ensure the bank maintains a clearly defined risk appetite by overseeing appropriate frameworks and methodologies to support effective risk identification, mitigation and monitoring.

Eric Holmquist is joining the Customers Bank team as Chief Risk Officer.  PHOTO/SUBMITTED

Holmquist will serve as chair of the Enterprise Risk Management Committee to ensure risks associated with strategy, operations and change management are adequately monitored, and regular reporting is provided to the board of directors, according to a company statement.

Holmquist recently left his post as managing principal of enterprise risk management at Capco, a global financial services consulting firm with headquarters in Belgium. His leadership history at financial services and consulting firms includes executive positions at FIS of Jacksonville, Florida, Accume Partners of New York and Advanta Bank Corp. in Spring House, Pennsylvania.

Customers Bank President and CEO Richard Ehst said he’s excited for Holmquist to join the company at a time of growth.

“Eric will serve as an integral part of the bank’s risk management practice to help us provide the best service and customer experience to our clients, while also increasing value for our investors,” Ehst said.

Customers Bank brings back former SVP as chief accounting officer

Velasquez –


Customers Bank of Wyomissing has named Jessie John Velasquez as senior vice president, chief accounting officer.

He most recently served as senior vice president and head of accounting policy and external reporting for Webster Bank N.A. of Radnor, but previously worked for Customers Bank as senior vice president and deputy chief accounting officer.

“I am delighted to return to Customers Bank and be part of a leading financial institution that takes pride in its Team Members,” said Velasquez in a release. “I am looking forward to working with my colleagues in developing a best-in-class accounting organization in support of Customers Bank’s growth and success.”

As chief accounting officer, Velasquez will oversee corporate accounting functions, including corporate tax, regulatory reporting and accounting policy.

Velasquez will support the financial decision-making of the executive management team, and work with them to chart the path for the bank’s future growth.

“We are pleased to welcome Jessie back to Customers Bank. His significant accounting and regulatory experience will be valuable assets to the management team as we implement our strategic growth plans,” stated Richard Ehst, president and CEO of Customers Bank.

Customers Bank counting on Bowman for front-end, back-end experience in new leadership role

Customers Bank Chief Credit Officer Andrew Bowman has been promoted to the roles of senior executive vice president and member of the office of the chair, positions that will see him help make crucial decisions for the Wyomissing-based community bank’s strategic future.

Bank officials said they will rely on Bowman’s more than 30 years of front-end and back-end experience to help clients navigate economic uncertainty caused by COVID-19 and share his perspective with the bank’s leadership team. As a member of the office of the chair, Bowman will be responsible to advise the bank’s executive leadership team on its short- and long-term strategic outlook.

Andrew Bowman, pictured, was recently promoted to an advisory position for Customers Bank’s leadership team. – PHOTO/PROVIDED

“Andrew has proven to be a valuable asset and trusted advisor to our clients and executive team,” said bank Chairman Jay Sidhu in a statement released Monday. “I look forward to working more closely with Andrew in the future. His extensive market knowledge and broad credit experience will continue to be key differentiators that help us provide clients with the financial tools and resources they need to re-establish operations as the economy continues to reopen.”

Bowman’s new obligations will be in addition to his existing responsibilities as chief credit officer, which include leading a team of more than 50 financial professionals involved in underwriting, loan work-out, collections, appraisals, environment orders and reviews. Bowman serves as the chairperson for the bank’s various loan committees, while also serving as a member of the bank’s committees on assets and liabilities, allowance for loan loss, enterprise risk management and executive management.

Bowman, who received his MBA at St. Joseph’s University, has held leadership roles at Customers Bank since his hiring in 2010. Prior to that, he served as vice president and director of special loans at VIST Financial, also based in Wyomissing, and held various management and credit roles at Penske Truck Leasing from 2005 to 2010 and Wachovia Bank, now Wells Fargo, from 1988 to 2004.

“During his career, Bowman has managed commercial loan portfolios ranging in value up to approximately $1 billion during some of the most turbulent market conditions with sensitivity to clients’ needs and changing economic pressures,” according to a statement on Bowman’s promotion from Customers Bank officials.

Customers Bank switches to appointment-only service

All Customers Bank branches are switching to appointment-only service.


Drive-thru service will remain available only at the Berkshire Mall West, Exeter, Muhlenberg, Langhorne and Kimberton locations. There is no change to regular business hours. ATMs and night-deposit services remain available.

The changes are being made to protect clients and employees from the spread of coronavirus, bank officials said.  The service changes will be effective beginning March 25 and will remain in effect for two weeks, after which time the bank will re-evaluate the overall situation and branch operations.

The appointment-only banking will allow access to teller services, safety deposit boxes, account openings, loan origination, and other financial services. In some locations, the number of clients permitted in the lobby at one time will be restricted to maintain best practices for social distancing.


Customers Bank limits access at branches in Berks, Bucks and Chester counties

Romig –

Customers Bank of Wyomissing said it is limiting access at a number of its branches in response to the coronavirus.

The bank is limiting access to drive-thru and appointment-only service at the following branches: Berkshire Mall West (Berks County), Muhlenberg (Berks County), Exeter (Berks County), Langhorne (Bucks County) and Kimberton (Chester County).

All other branches will remain open and available for business as usual.

Tim Romig, executive vice president, managing director & market president, said the move was being undertaken with the approval and authorization of the Pennsylvania Department of Banking & Securities.

“This change is being made after careful consideration of the best methods to protect our clients and Team Members,” said Romig. “We are doing everything possible to continue to provide full access to all banking services and products.”

Clients who need access to a safety deposit box, or other services that cannot be delivered via the drive-thru such as an account opening, or loan application may schedule an appointment with the branch manager to visit the bank and meet directly with a bank employee.



SBA offers $2M in loans to help businesses, nonprofits cover COVID-19 losses

The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) is working with state officials to support small businesses impacted by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) with up to $2 million targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans.

President Trump’s National Emergency declaration — the “Coronavirus Preparedness and Response and Supplemental Appropriations Act” — in response to the COVID-19 spread in the U.S. authorizes the SBA to offer Economic Injury Disaster Loans to struggling small businesses, according to the SBA.

“The president’s declaration, coupled with the administration’s unprecedented efforts to mobilize and involve the full force of the federal government and the private sector — including leaders in science, medicine, transportation, finance and business — will help save lives and reduce economic disruptions in every community,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.

“The agency is working closely with governors to make up to $2 million in targeted, low-interest disaster recovery loans available to any small business enterprise that has been severely impacted by the situation,” she said.

Loans can be used to pay fixed debts, payroll accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact, according to the SBA. The interest rate is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for nonprofit organizations, according to the SBA.

Local banks are working with business clients to ensure they have the resources they need to support their businesses at a time when they are sure to see a decrease in revenue as state officials call for the closure of nonessential businesses due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in the commonwealth.

In a statement, Customers Bank applauded the effort by the SBA to mitigate the economic and financial shortfalls on the small business community. President and CEO Richard Ehst said the bank has “committed to provide $200 million in new small business lending to qualifying companies.”

“We value the health and wellbeing of our clients and team members above all else and want to make sure the business community is aware of this important program,” Ehst said. “We want businesses throughout the community to know we are available to help them navigate the complexities of the SBA loan process. We can also provide other financial solutions, including lines of credit, to help mitigate any issues caused by this situation.”