PROFILE: Skip Branin

April 3, 2020
By Marcy Shortuse

BY OLIVIA CAMERON – Francis ‘Skip’ Branin has dedicated his work to preserving financial stability within the community of Boca Grande. His skillset has allowed him to monitor the funding for island organizations.
Before he was ever wintering on Gasparilla Island, Skip grew up in Cranbury, New Jersey, and now spends summers at the “Jersey Shore.” He went away to St. George’s boarding school in Rhode Island before earning a bachelor’s degree in history at the University of Pennsylvania.
At New York University Skip received a Master of Business Administration degree in finance at the Stern School of Business. He served in the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant before grappling with his profession. 
His studies set the course for a career of financial responsibility and investment management shortly after. Skip jumped into research and analyst opportunities in the business field. 
By 1975, he joined the involvement council of Brundage, Story & Rose and eventually became managing partner and chief executive officer. 
In 2000, the firm was sold to a private bank called Bessemer Trust. After two more years with them, he took his managing director title to CIBC Private Wealth Management, where he’s been ever since. 
“I’ve been in the same business for 50 years and it makes you a jack of all trades,” he said.
Skip and his wife, Penn, have transitioned to being seasonal residents and island contributors over many years. When they aren’t back in New Jersey, they’re committing their time to the future of Boca Grande. 
While serving as director, vice-chair and treasurer of the Boca Grande Health Clinic Foundation since 2018, The community’s support has not ceased to amaze Skip. 
“We live in an extremely generous community. The clinic operates at deficit, so we have to raise almost $3 million a year to support it. People on the island are interested in ensuring the success of the clinic,” said Skip. 
The foundation relies on the people here and their interest in nearby quality health care.
“We have a substantial endowment raised locally,” he said.
Skip is also treasurer of The Island School board, and is involved in the school’s fundraising team. 
“The school receives about 40 percent of their budget from the state and Lee County, and the other 60 percent comes from our community. It’s amazing to me how generous our islanders are,” said Skip. 
He’s also been a trustee of St. George’s School in Rhode Island for 25 years, and will continue to impact education for future generations there as well.
Skip believes the island could not function in the capacity that it does without the amount of care and donations put into it. He is pleasantly surprised with the financial support given to a school that many of the donors do not have children attending. 
Penn is secretary of the Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association Board of Trustees. Skip and Penn are proud of the community’s development. 
“The Mercabo Project looks neat. I think what they’re going to do there is incredible,” said Skip. 
He believes it is a pleasant addition to our island’s gateway and will open our minds to future environmental discussions. 
“Lord knows what could’ve gone up there if the GICIA didn’t get together and raise the funds to purchase the property,” he said.
Together, the couple has contributed to the island’s advancement. However, this dedication was multiple years in the making. Their passion for its improvement and preservation has developed over many years of experiencing Boca Grande’s development first-hand.
Skip is proud to be a seasonal resident of Boca Grande. 
“My blood pressure goes down when I cross the bridge,” he admitted.
He recalled first visiting the quiet island when his son was six months old, more than 30 years ago. 
“We fell in love with Boca Grande quickly,” he said.
The family rented a house for 10 years prior to buying in Boca Bay in 2001. 
“We were still coming and going while gradually increasing visits,” said Skip. By 2010, they were able to stay for the season. Four years ago they moved into a new house, but remain in Boca Bay. 
Since vacationing here in 1990, Skip knew Gasparilla Island would undergo development from the quaint community he first saw it as. Today, he has seen changes made possible by the very residents who started it all.
The pair is glad to have twice as many friends, from their home in New Jersey to their “second life” in Boca Grande. Like most islanders, they spend their free time boating, fishing and golfing. However, Skip finds himself back in his workspace more often than not. 
“There are many things around the island I would like to experience, but don’t have the time for,” he said, wistfully.
He also commends the Boca Grande Community Center for their variety of incredible events throughout the season. 
As for Skip’s nickname, there’s no shocking tale behind it. His name, Francis, was derived from his father’s first name. Since his father feared the name “Frank,” his parents created their own for him. 
His son, Francis III, now goes by “Mac.” 
They’ve knitted three generations of nicknames with one shared family name he’s proud to pass down. 
Skip’s children and three grandchildren currently reside up north, spread out in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
Despite a slightly-lifted workload, Skip has continued to put his best effort towards fundraising for the island. After dedicating his work to the establishment of a better community, Skip has yet to grow tired of it. 
“I love this island and the people here. I’m lucky to be involved and help make it the place that it is.”