Banking  on Community

If there is a magnet for community banks, it must be somewhere near Birmingham. Whether home-grown or the result of mergers, these banks are making big moves in the city and beyond.

The building rising along the edge of Highway 280 has been a daily reminder of the growing banking business sector. First US Bank invested $14.5 million to develop this new 40,000-square-foot building at Pump House Road to house a branch and other banking operations, with another 30,000 square feet available to lease to other tenants.  This Thomasville-based company is a wholly-owned banking subsidiary of United Security Bancshares Inc.

“We are very excited to be able to move forward with the development of this high-quality office complex in the Birmingham area,” United Security Bancshares and First US Bank CEO James F. House told Alabama News Center. “This represents the culmination of a great deal of effort by a number of individuals over the past several months. In particular, we are grateful for the efforts of the Jefferson County Commission, as well as members of the local community, who helped pave the way for this project.  Commissioners Bowman, Brown, Carrington, Knight and Stephens each helped us as we made this important decision.”

Birmingham banking veteran Sam Henderson is going to lead the city operations. The new facility cements the 64-year-old bank’s growing presence in the Birmingham metro area. Headquartered in Thomasville, First US Bank has 21 offices in Birmingham, Brent, Butler, Calera, Centreville, Coffeeville, Columbiana, Fulton, Gilbertown, Grove Hill, Harpersville, Jackson, McCalla, Thomasville, Taylorville, Tuscaloosa and Woodstock.

On the heels of the headquarters construction for US Bank came the merger of Progress Financial Corporation with First Partners Financial, Inc. (“First Partners”) finalized this summer. The newly-merged bank will be known as Progress Financial Corporation going forward.

“The merger process has been a lot of work and I am very pleased with how our teams from First Partners and Progress have responded,” says David Nast, President and CEO of Progress Bank. “We have a lot of great people that care about our clients and are making sure that the post-merger Progress Bank is ready to serve our communities. I’m excited about our company’s future.”

Progress Financial and First Partners first announced their decision to merge in February of 2017 to create the eighth largest bank in Alabama with approximately $1 billion in total assets, $750 million in total loans and $850 million in deposits based on financial results as of December 31, 2016. Under the terms of the definitive merger agreement, the transaction values First Partners at $27.00 per share, or $41.9 million in the aggregate.

Progress Bank has offices in Birmingham, Decatur, Destin, Florence, Huntsville and Madison. The bank is a full-service financial institution offering commercial, consumer, wealth management/investment services and mortgage services.

The growth of community banks and the infusion of new brands into the Birmingham market is substantial. Noble Bank and Trust moved into the market recently, taking over a branch office near The Summit in Cahaba Heights.

Tony Robbins, recently named senior vice president and mortgage loan officer is based out of that branch. Prior to joining NobleBank, Robbins owned AM Robbins Mortgage for 14 years. He also previously served in financial services roles with Bryant Bank and AmSouth Bank.

“Our Birmingham office is growing and Tony will be a tremendous asset to our team,” said Anthony Humphries, CEO and President at NobleBank & Trust. “His experience in the financial services industry, specifically with mortgages, will bring value to our clients in the Birmingham community.”

As a community bank serving Calhoun County and the surrounding areas as well as Birmingham, NobleBank & Trust was founded in October 2005 and has grown to more than $222 millions in assets. NobleBank & Trust has five Alabama locations in the cities of Anniston, Alexandria, Oxford, Piedmont and Birmingham.

The expansion into the city has not stopped there. Cullman’s Peoples Bank of Alabama received final regulatory approval of its expansion into Birmingham with the opening of a full-service branch.

CB&S Bank has opened a loan production office as well as a full service branch along Highway 280. CB&S Bank is a $1.6 billion community bank operating more than 50 offices in the Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee markets. Demopolis-based Robertson’s Bank has also expanded into Birmingham with a loan production office in Homewood. James Whitfield “Whit” Bird is the city executive in charge of the bank’s expansion into the Birmingham market.

A community bank that has been in the Birmingham market for a while is Eva Bank, Cullman-based with a branch on Clairmont Avenue in the Lakeview District. Their focus has been on growing their loan business, according to executive Tom Russell.

SouthPoint Bank, with four locations across the metro area, is building a new headquarters on Highway 280 in Grandview. The building, which will house a branch as well as the administration and mortgage operations of Southpoint, is 27,000 square feet and is scheduled to be completed at the end of the year, according to bank CEO Steve Smith. The property was purchased for $2.75 million.

Louisiana-based Iberia Bank recently spent $13.5 million to purchase a multi-story building on International Drive in Hoover. Iberia has been in the Birmingham market since its purchase of CapitalSouth in 2009. Alabama bank president Greg King says the building purchase will help the bank manage its significant market growth.

Another major, non-real estate move was undertaken by Cadence Bancorp, the parent of Cadence Bank in Birmingham. Cadence was the first bank to go public in 2017, debuting on the New York Stock Exchange back in the spring with a $150 million IPO priced at $20 a share.

The growth of community banking in Birmingham can be traced back to the mergers and consolidations of the bigger banks in the city, which left a lot of banking talent without a place to use their skills. That talent has since been scooped up and put to work in the smaller community banking universe. Combine that with local banks in smaller markets searching for growth and a natural evolutionary path led to Birmingham. The climate is perfect for banks that offer the high-touch service for which many customers yearn.

While the influx of banks moving into the Birmingham market has been notable, two of the largest community banks, ServisFirst and National Bank of Commerce, have reversed the trend, branching out into other markets.

When NBC acquired Private Bank of Buckhead and Private Bank of Decatur in Georgia, the company tapped longtime Birmingham market president Robert Aland to lead the charge into the Atlanta market. NBC has shown significant growth since going public in 2015. NBC’s parent has also targeted Tampa, where it acquired Patriot Bank, as part of its growth plans.

The bank has company in Tampa. ServisFirst opened a Tampa office back in the spring. But the most prominent office for ServisFirst these days is the new headquarters building rising in Homewood. The building is a four-story, 100,000-square-foot building with a two-story, 46,000-square-foot parking garage and the capacity to house 500 employees. This will be the third headquarters building since the bank opened in 2005. The new building should be ready early next year and allow ServisFirst to both consolidate its Birmingham workforce and clear the way for anticipated new growth.

Growth certainly seems to be in the air for Birmingham community banks.