In a July story, Business North Carolina reported plans by Southern Pines-based First Bancorp to expand in the state’s metro areas as it seeks to increase its presence in faster-growing markets.
Less than two months later, CEO Richard Moore and President Mike Mayer have made good on that pledge.
In July the bank announced the $97 million purchase of Greensboro-based Carolina Bank, which has eight offices in the Triad region and $706 million in assets. By combining with Carolina Bank, First Bank would have more than $4 billion in assets and 93 offices.
Then on Aug. 17, First Bank opened its first Charlotte branch.
First Bank previously added four branches in Winston-Salem after swapping offices with a Virginia-based company.
“The Carolina Bank deal puts us on the map in the Triad,” Mayer says. “We knew we needed to pivot the company to be better positioned in the Interstate 85-Interstate 40 corridor.”
In Charlotte, First Bank last year hired Adam Currie, an alum of Bank of America and PNC Financial Group, as regional president to lead its entry into the state’s biggest city. Since then Currie and another lender have exceeded Mayer’s expectations, with plans to add three or four more people over the next year. The first office is in Charlotte’s SouthPark neighborhood, where First Bank will cater to small business owners and high net worth individuals.
Operating in Charlotte takes a different style than most of the company’s markets, including its six offices in towns skirting the Queen City such as Mooresville and Locust. More than 85% of the bank’s assets came from outside the state’s 10 most populous counties as of Dec. 31.
Like Currie, Mayer has lots of experience in Charlotte banking, having worked at Bank of America for 24 years before leading two community banks that were later purchased by peers. “We know who we want to bank in Charlotte and we’re going at this with a rifle, not a shotgun. So far it’s going extremely well.”
It shouldn’t hurt First Bank that Yadkin Financial Corp., the state’s largest community bank, is being acquired by Pittsburgh, Pa.-based FNB Corp. for $1.4 billion. “Any time there is a disruption like that, it is to our advantage.”
First Bank hasn’t hired anyone from Yadkin, “but we’ve got a lot of phone calls coming our way,” Mayer says.
Carolina Bank’s sale would leave the Triad with two remaining bank headquarters: Winston-Salem-based BB&T Corp. and High Point-based BNC Bancorp.