After the merger, Seacoast Bank will have eight branches in Palm Beach County.

Continuing its shopping spree in Palm Beach County, Seacoast Bank will pay $33 million for First Bank of the Palm Beaches, the companies announced Wednesday.

The deal expands Stuart-based Seacoast’s reach in Palm Beach County — and it also removes another local player from the already-thinning ranks of homegrown banks.

After the merger, Seacoast Banking Corp. of Florida (Nasdaq: SBCF) will have eight branches in Palm Beach County.

Headquartered in downtown West Palm Beach, First Bank launched in 2006, the peak of the real estate bubble. As of mid-2019, it had $166 million in deposits, a tiny fraction of the county’s overall $54 billion banking market, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Seacoast had $655 million in deposits in Palm Beach County, 1.2 percent of the total.

Seacoast has been an aggressive buyer of Palm Beach County banks. It snapped up Grand Bankshares in 2015 and Palm Beach Community Bank in 2017.

“This acquisition brings Seacoast a highly complementary banking institution and strengthens our position in Palm Beach County,” Seacoast Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis S. Hudson III said in a statement.

Speaking to analysts Wednesday, Hudson lauded First Bank’s “deep roots” in Palm Beach County.

Seacoast long has dominated the banking market in Martin County, its home base. Seacoast is the No. 1 bank there, with 26 percent of Martin County’s deposits as of June 30.

Since the Great Recession, the numbers of small banks have been dwindling. Community banks face mounting regulatory hurdles and rising demand from consumers for high-tech services, offerings that require a costly investment.

Seacoast, for its part, launched during the Great Depression. It has rebounded after struggling in the Great Recession.

The merger calls for First Bank shareholders to get 0.2 share of Seacoast common stock for each share of First Bank common stock. Based on Seacoast’s closing price of $29.53 as of Monday, the transaction is valued at $32.9 million.

Closing of the acquisition is expected late by March 2020. Regulators and First Bank shareholders must approve the deal.

After the merger, First Bank President Joseph Shearouse plans to remain with Seacoast as its Palm Beach County market president.

The disappearance of small banks saddens Ed Sterling, head of Flagler Bank in Lake Clarke Shores.

“There’s too few of us left,” Sterling said. “I feel community banks have a very important place.”

Community banks such as Flagler and Legacy Bank of Boca Raton cater to small businesses that bigger banks tend to overlook, said Legacy Bank President Dennis Bedley.

“As we disappear, it really affects the small business guy,” Bedley said. “We don’t have all the technology the big banks have. Where we excel is the white-glove service. We know our customers’ names.”

jostrowski@pbpost.com

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