Thursday, April 18, 2024

Rocky Mount: An enduring N.C. banking tradition

Click image above to view the full PDF.

Since acquiring RBC Bank (USA) ten years ago, PNC has stewarded Rocky Mount’s established banking tradition, while facilitating continued growth and impact for local customers and the community.

This is the twenty-first in a series of informative monthly articles for North Carolina businesses from PNC in collaboration with Business North Carolina magazine. 

When Jeff Taylor, a fourth-generation Rocky Mount resident and local PNC Bank leader, reflects on his childhood, regular visits to the former Sears department store on Church Street rank among his most cherished memories. For the past 28 years, Taylor has frequented that same block of Church Street – not far from the site where his favorite retail display of riding lawnmowers once stood – in his capacity as a senior operations manager for PNC Bank and previous roles with predecessor financial institutions.

Taylor is one of approximately 500 PNC employees who call the Twin Counties home and contribute to the region’s significant banking tradition that began more than 120 years ago. Since its rise to prominence as a regional center for agriculture and textiles, Rocky Mount has benefited from a robust banking sector, which has helped fuel local innovation and the city’s present-day reputation as a transportation hub and leader in manufacturing and logistics.

Thanks to a longstanding cultivation of local banking talent and infrastructure, together with the expanded reach and capabilities afforded by an increasingly virtual and tech-enabled world, the contributions and impact of PNC’s Rocky Mount employees – many of whom support operations for the entire enterprise – extend beyond the scale and scope of the Twin Counties. “I will always call Rocky Mount home, and I’m fortunate to lead a team that contributes to making this community a great place to live and work, while also making an impact for PNC customers throughout the country,” says Taylor.

Timeline: A local banking legacy

Rocky Mount’s rich banking legacy dates back to 1899, when Planters National Bank was established to serve the needs of local farmers, manufacturers and merchants of tobacco and cotton products.

In 1931 – on April Fool’s Day, no less – Peoples Bank & Trust opened its doors. Despite the uncertainty and instability that characterized the economic climate of that era, more than 100 people opened accounts during that first day of business, with an average deposit of more than $550 – an amount equivalent to more than $10,000 in today’s dollars. The stability of these deposits gave the community something to believe in, a reason for confidence and optimism.

During World War II, the Rocky Mount community rallied to support the nation, with both hometown banks selling Liberty Bonds to finance the war effort, while investing in agricultural and manufacturing interests.

Advancements in technology have since transformed banking, as well as key industries served by local banks, such as agriculture. By the late 1960s, for example, tobacco harvester machines presented an alternative to the grueling manual labor of harvest. By investing in the manufacturing of this machinery and extending loans to farmers to purchase these innovations, local banks played an important role in providing access to these tools. Banks also introduced new technologies for convenience and efficiency. In 1974, Peoples Bank & Trust introduced its first ATM, which it affectionately named “PAT.”

In 1990, Planters National Bank and Peoples Bank &  Trust merged to form Centura, a name connoting the combined banks’ 100-year tradition of service to the communities
of eastern North Carolina. RBC purchased Centura Bank the following decade, with PNC Bank acquiring RBC Bank (USA) in 2012.

Parallel paths: Family and banking

For Lowry Perry, PNC Bank’s SBA East territory sales leader, the various organizational iterations of PNC Bank in Rocky Mount align neatly with generations of his family, beginning with his great-grandfather, who was a director of Planters National Bank.

After graduating from North Carolina State University, Perry returned to Rocky Mount to embark on his banking career at Peoples Bank & Trust. He and his wife, then a banker at Planters National Bank, welcomed their first child just days after the two institutions merged. “Our family was, quite literally, the personification of the merger that brought Rocky Mount’s hometown banks together and created a new organization that has continued to grow and thrive,” says Perry.

Lucy Rose, PNC’s board governance manager and assistant corporate secretary, relocated to Rocky Mount early in her 25-year banking career. Centura appealed to her because of the wide range of professional opportunities available, which only became more diverse and plentiful as the organization evolved. And the Rocky Mount community, where her husband grew up, felt like home.

When RBC Bank acquired Centura, Rose excelled in managing the bank’s implementation of corporate governance priorities. And when PNC Bank acquired RBC Bank (USA), she brought to PNC her skill and passion for this critical management function. While the breadth of PNC Bank’s footprint has grown to become a coast-to-coast franchise, Rose marvels at how deeply embedded the bank is in each the unique communities it serves, including Rocky Mount. 

Following PNC Bank’s acquisition of RBC Bank (USA), PNC curated a PNC Legacy Project exhibit at the Imperial Centre for the Arts & Sciences to honor the legacy of banking and predecessor financial institutions in Rocky Mount. Rose was among the employees who visited the exhibit. “I appreciated the installation because PNC acknowledged the importance of banking to the history of Rocky Mount,” she says. “Ten years later, PNC has continued to respect this legacy and make meaningful investments in this community.”

Living its Main Street values

“When PNC entered the market, its leaders told us they were committed to Rocky Mount,” says Jeff  Taylor. “They’ve repeatedly demonstrated that commitment by providing career paths and advancement opportunities for local employees and investing in the community through volunteerism, charitable funding and support for local economic development initiatives.”

PNC’s Rocky Mount-based employees have logged more than 2,600 volunteer hours in support of local early childhood education and development organizations, in alignment with PNC Grow Up Great®, a $500 million, multi-year, bilingual initiative to help prepare children from birth to age 5 for success in school and life. Meanwhile, PNC Bank and the PNC Foundation have distributed more than $2 million in charitable funding to empower the efforts of local nonprofits, including the United Way of the Tar River Region and Down East Partnership for Children of Nash and Edgecombe Counties.

“Throughout the past decade, PNC has consistently and generously funded impactful programs and efforts that reach our community’s children, ultimately helping shape the future of our region,” says Henrietta Zalkind, executive director of Down East Partnership for Children of Nash and Edgecombe Counties.

Shortly after PNC established a local presence, leaders from the PNC Foundation traveled to Rocky Mount to see first-hand the opportunities for maximum philanthropic impact. Among the organizations they visited was Down East Partnership for Children of Nash and Edgecombe Counties. Output from those conversations resulted in the development of Discovery Park, which was funded by the PNC Foundation and has since fostered countless learning interactions and opportunities for children, caregivers and educators. 

As a major employer and facilitator of regional business growth, PNC continues to champion economic development in the Twin Counties through its support of local initiatives and collaboration with organizations such as Carolinas Gateway Partnership and the Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.


For 40 years, sharing the stories of North Carolina's dynamic business community.

Related Articles