UNION, N.J., Sept. 25, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Center Bancorp, Inc. (Nasdaq:CNBC) (or "Center"), parent company of Union Center National Bank ("UCNB" or "the Bank"), is pleased to announce that it has been named to the exclusive Sandler O'Neill + Partners L.P, "2013 Sm-All Stars" list for the second consecutive year and third time overall as a top performing publicly traded Bank in the nation. Sandler O'Neill evaluated all 450 publicly traded banks and thrifts with a market capitalization of less than $2.5 billion and identified the 31 top performing small-cap banks and thrifts in the nation. In announcing the Sm-All Stars, Sandler O'Neill's Principal & Director of Research Mark Fitzgibbon and Associate Director Casey Orr said, "In all, our screening methodology eliminated 93% of the institutions being evaluated. The performance metrics of the remaining 31 institutions are exceptional." Companies were evaluated based on absolute performance in eight financial variables: growth in EPS, loans and deposits, return on average equity, nonperforming assets to loans plus OREO ratio, net charge-off ratio, reserves to nonperforming assets ratio and Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio. To earn "Sm-All Star" status, the banks and thrifts needed to be at or above the peer median for the first seven metrics surveyed, plus be considered "Well Capitalized" per the Tier 1 risk-based capital ratio. "Center Bancorp is honored to be recognized for the second consecutive year on the Sm-All Star list," said Anthony C. Weagley, President and Chief Executive Officer. Center prides itself on its strength, stability and consistent performance while providing superior service to our local communities. "It is a testament of our Bank's hallmark personalized service, commitment to excellence, and results," added Mr. Weagley. About Center Bancorp Center Bancorp, Inc. is a bank holding company, which operates Union Center National Bank, its main subsidiary. Chartered in 1923, Union Center National Bank is one of the oldest national banks headquartered in the state of New Jersey and now ranks as the third largest national bank headquartered in the state. Union Center National Bank is currently the largest commercial bank headquartered in Union County. Its primary market niche is its commercial banking business. The Bank focuses its lending activities on commercial lending to small and medium-sized businesses, real estate developers and high net worth individuals.