Propelling Business(es) Forward:
The Local Bank That is a Proud Catalyst for Countless Companies and Entrepreneurs

By RJ Walters
Photography by Jordan Randall
Developed in partnership with Bank of Central Florida

Rick Ricart is in a hotel room in Jerusalem, making slight changes to an upcoming Holy Land tour and checking on the status of a wire transfer.

Thomas DiCesare is on the phone with a client discussing their financial goals, while glancing at a document in his email that needs to be signed.

Rick is president of Imagine Tours and Travel; Thomas is a partner and wealth advisor for Waverly Advisors.

Clients count on them every day to provide great services in a timely fashion, and Rick and Thomas count on a dedicated team of bank professionals working diligently behind the scenes on their behalf. For them and numerous others, Bank of Central Florida offers the collaborative spirit and personal touch that helps propel their businesses to new heights.

Amy and Rick Ricart, founders of Imagine Tours and Travel, have counted on Bank of Central Florida for more than a decade.

More Than You Can Imagine

Rick Ricart’s father, also named Rick, was one of six men in 1959 to found Wholesale Tours International, the first company to offer Evangelical tours from North America to Europe and the Holy Land.

Fast forward more than four decades later, and the New York native and his wife, Amy, founded the Christian travel company Imagine Tours & Travel here in Lakeland. Since 2005, Imagine has been booking and leading tours to Israel, Egypt, Europe, South Africa and other tourist hot spots.

Both Rick and Amy graduated from Florida Southern College, and they were excited to make Lakeland their home after a decade honing their business skills in the Midwest. When they started Imagine they were working with a large well known bank, but over time they realized they needed quicker access to professionals and a bank that had more customizable options to fit their distinct needs.

“The level of communication we provide to our clients is tremendous, whether it is in person, through emails, on the phone, etc.,” says VP/Relationship Manager Kim Knaisch. “We have the flexibility to, within reason, work in the gray areas and outside the box to meet each individual client’s needs…which isn’t always the case with larger institutions.”

Amy said that she could tell almost immediately that Bank of Central Florida and Imagine share many of the same core values, and she and her husband have numerous stories of how bank leadership, including CEO Paul Noris, stepped in if necessary to ensure any challenges were handled quickly and effectively.

What started as just the husband and wife duo has blossomed into a team of more than 20 staff who are dedicated to making people’s travel dreams come true—but to do that it takes much more than just knowing what landmarks to hit and how to book flights. It means being able to securely handle people’s money, understanding the fine details of international transactions and having the ability to make changes on the fly.

Amy noted a time when Imagine needed assistance with their checking machine and VP/Treasury Management Officer Linda Harkins immediately jumped in to help resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

• Local market knowledge •

• Quick responses •

• Personalized support •

• Local decision making •

“We have the flexibility to, within reason, work in the gray areas and outside the box to meet each individual client’s needs.”

– Kim Knaisch, VP/Relationship Manager

Rick said the difference between his experience with Bank of Central Florida and other banks is night and day.

“It took one of the larger banks a year before they even acknowledged that we had taken our business to [Bank of Central Florida] and we got a call, ‘Hey, is there something wrong? Is there anything we can do?’ Rick recalls. “I told them, ‘It’s a little too late for that now.’”


Banking on the Right People

DiCesare, born and raised in Lakeland, understood from a young age the importance of finding a bank that cares deeply about what you care about. His father, Joe, a principal of Citrus Air Conditioners Inc., and lifelong entrepreneur, enrolled at Bank of Central Florida in 2019, in part because of the trust he had in local leadership made up of people he had rubbed shoulders with in the community.

As Thomas started in real estate investing and now is a wealth advisor, he knew he needed a bank that could keep pace with the speed of business and be able to help him at a moment’s notice.

He said since he joined Bank of Central Florida in 2019 he has been consistently impressed with the attentiveness of the professionals he works with.

“I’ll shoot over an email about opening an account, and by the time I’ve had lunch or finished up an appointment, the team has outlined the next steps to keep things moving,” he says with a smile.

“I’ll shoot over an email about opening an account, and by the time I’ve had lunch or finished up an appointment, the team has outlined the next steps to keep things moving.”

-Local Wealth Advisor Thomas DiCesare

Coady Cheek, the VP/Professional Relationship Manager who oversees DiCesare’s accounts, acknowledges the responsiveness of employees is one of the bank’s key pillars, and because of that, every relationship manager is equipped with a support specialist.

As the two sit and chat at the bank’s downtown location, their conversation bounces from business to hobbies to their families—not surprising since DiCesare graduated from Lakeland Christian School, as did Cheek’s wife, Ashley.

“One thing I love is that I live, work and worship all right here and I see folks like Thomas on a regular basis,” Cheek says.

Cheek said the intentional controlled growth by bank leadership has kept clients happy—all while the bank has doubled in total assets in the past five years.

Bank of Central Florida now has six locations in Central Florida, and at the core of its strategy is to help people achieve their business and financial dreams, whether it’s an international company flying people halfway across the globe or local entrepreneurs growing portfolios that create win-win scenarios for everyone involved.