NC banking industry focuses on basics in growth year
The last year in North Carolina wasn’t much fun for investment bankers — and journalists — who thrive on deals. Only one new institution — Morehead City-based Sound Bank — showed up on Business North Carolina’s annual list of the 50 largest banks and credit unions. It replaces Charlotte’s New Dominion Bank, which was acquired by Newark, Ohio-based Park National Corp. for $28 million.
That tranquility marks a major change from a year earlier, when out-of-state companies acquired a half-dozen of the state’s biggest, most promising community-banking companies. Pennsylvania-based FNB Corp., Tennessee-based Pinnacle Financial Partners, First Tennessee Bank and others are now battling to build franchises mostly in the Charlotte and Triangle markets.
Fortunately, the remaining N.C. banks and credit uinons are rising to the challenge. Forty-seven of the top 50 reported increased revenue, while only eight had lower profit. One small institution beating the odds is Rocky Mount-based First Carolina Bank, which showed some of the state’s best increases in revenue and profit. The bank has nearly tripled its share of deposits to more than 13% in its home area over the last four years, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reports. “We are one of the few remaining locally capitalized and growth-oriented community banks that has very experienced people serving our business and professional customers,” CEO Ron Day says.
A similar approach is also paying off for Southern Pines-based First Bancorp, which was among the top gainers in profit and revenue. Under CEO Richard Moore and President Mike Mayer, First Bancorp has established itself as the largest N.C.-based community bank with $6 billion in assets and an increasing presence in the state’s biggest metro areas after buying institutions in Asheville and Greensboro.
Improved efficiency, including closing lots of bank offices, played a role in the industry’s profit gains. North Carolina’s six largest banks have 194 fewer offices than they had five years ago, a 13% decline, according to the FDIC. The most aggressive closer is Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks Inc., which has 26% fewer offices than five years ago.
Oops, that last sentence reminds us that there was one HUGE story in North Carolina last year: the blockbuster combination of SunTrust and BB&T Corp. The super-regional banks want to complete their merger by the end of the year, creating a new headquarters likely to be filled with about 60,000 employees and $440 billion in assets, the sixth-largest in the nation. The big winner in the transaction appears to be Charlotte, where the banks plan a new headquarters filled with 500 to 1,000 corporate staffers, much to the chagrin of Winston-Salem and Atlanta, their current bases. CEOs Kelly King of BB&T and Bill Rogers of SunTrust concluded the Queen City affords a fresh start and offers great appeal to young, tech-savvy staffers.