Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read March 2020 — For First Horizon, 2020 was a year of growth and deepening their position in the North Carolina market despite the COVID-19 pandemic. A merger of equals with IberiaBank mixed with key acquisitions of locations and branches throughout the state were major highlights for the financial institution in a year marred by the ongoing health crisis. The PPP program was instrumental in helping the local community deal with the pandemic-related uncertainty, First Horizon Bank’s NC/VA Regional President Rick Manley told Invest:. North Carolina’s continued and projected growth, robust educational system and strong talent pipeline point to a healthy recovery as First Horizon grows and strengthens its presence in the region.
What were the highlights for First Horizon Bank in 2020?
Our merger with IberiaBank was a huge milestone for the company. In North Carolina, it added a team of bankers and a few new locations in the Greensboro market. Following the purchase of Capital Bank, we brought their legacy operation in Charlotte, which consisted of around 150 employees, into one centralized location last year. This means that the commercial banking unit, the private client banking unit, the real estate and some support functions are now all working together under one roof.
We have eight banking centers in the Charlotte region, while our main banking hub for the region is on Morrison Boulevard. We hired several new bankers to join the team and we plan to continue recruiting to expand our regional presence in the Carolinas.
How did the pandemic impact your regional operations?
We’ve had to work really hard to stay connected to each other because the synergies that we were getting from being in the same building were no longer available to us. We had to use ingenuity, creativity and innovation to maintain constant communication with each other and our customers. This close banker-client relationship was vital when it came to issuing PPP loans, for example.
How did the PPP loan process benefit both the bank and its customers?
The PPP loans offered us a way to service our community and business owners, and thereby increase awareness of the First Horizon brand in North Carolina. We issued $350 million in loans during the first phase, including around $75 million from 300 loans in Charlotte, to help small businesses navigate their way through the crisis. We’ve now started the second round of loans and we’ve already received 600 applications, with a good chunk coming from the Charlotte region. It was a full-time process but we felt that it was vital to support the business community during this challenging time.
What new products and services will you start to offer clients as you expand in the mid-Atlantic region?
We offer everything a large, national bank offers in the way of products and services and we deliver at a local level. We follow a decentralized business model featuring local market management, decisions and approvals. It’s a unique way to approach the market but ultimately successful.
How has your digital strategy changed since the arrival of the pandemic?
We’ve achieved more in our digital transformation over the last 12 months than we would have done in 10-15 years without the pandemic. We’ve completely automated our account-opening process, and we’ve noticed that our customers are increasingly seeking advice virtually rather than in person. We are now focused on how to use these digital tools in the most productive and proactive fashion to reach out and connect to our customers.
How are you re-thinking your branch network strategy in 2021?
We acquired 28 new branch locations in Winston-Salem and Durham Chapel Hill last year, and with that came thousands of new customers. It has been an extremely successful acquisition and we’re now devising strategies to start integrating these new clients into our online banking networks.
What are the bank’s main goals and objectives for 2021?
We believe the second half of this year will see an acceleration based on some of the policies being implemented by the Biden administration. We will see inventory and investments from businesses into machinery and equipment as the pandemic takes its place in history. People and businesses are still looking for local financial services and a “hometown” approach from their banking provider, so we’re optimistic about First Horizon’s prospects. This trend, combined with the positive economic growth in migration to North Carolina, should stand us in good stead going forward.
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