Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read April 2021 — Though induced by the ongoing health crisis, the pandemic-led economic recession quickly generated flashbacks of the Great Recession, where the banking sector bore the brunt of the blame and spent the decade prior to the coronavirus restoring and improving consumer confidence. This time around, instead of pointing fingers at the industry, consumers have leaned on banking professionals to weather the sudden financial setbacks created by COVID-19.
Anchored by giants such as Bank of America and Truist, Charlotte has long been considered the second U.S banking hub outside of New York. The banking industry, along with the region’s affordability, positive in-migration pre- and during COVID and diversifying economy, is in part responsible for a strong decade of growth following the Great Recession and is expected to be an integral part of Charlotte’s recovery and long-term success.
From administering much-needed PPP loans to funding key community initiatives, the local banking sector has sat side by side with individuals and businesses alike, providing needed resources throughout the pandemic landscape.
“People were scared because they didn’t know what was coming,” Fifth Third Bank Mid-Atlantic President Lee Fite told Invest: about helping clients during volatile economic conditions. “During those times, clients found out which banks really cared. As we got to the end of the year, the companies and individuals we spoke to wanted to look to the future.”
North Carolina has been a key growth market along the Southeast for the Cincinnati-based bank, underpinned by the Charlotte and the Triangle markets. “A year ago, we announced a significant, multiyear expansion in this market. This will effectively double our financial centers. We finished 2020 with more employees than we had at the end of 2019, and we have added employees in nearly every market. We are always evaluating what we do well and what we can do better. We want to ensure we are making smart, long-term investments for our stakeholders,” Fite said. Continued investments in technology and risk management as well as bolstering wealth management capabilities have been among the top priorities for the bank as it expands its presence in Charlotte and North Carolina in general. “Looking at the mid-Atlantic region we cover, there are so many people moving here every day, even during the height of the pandemic. That brings a huge opportunity for us,” Fite said.
Similarly, JPMorgan Chase spent 2020 growing its general presence in the Queen City and the Tar Heel state. With over 400 employees in the state, the New York City-based bank has opened 13 branches in North Carolina, 10 of which are in the Charlotte area, Carolina Region Head of Commercial Banking Brent Gore told Invest:. “2020 was an important year as we embarked on the first phase of our branch expansion,” Gore said. “As we’ve expanded in the retail space, we’ve also expanded in commercial and business banking, which has driven hiring and recruitment statewide over the last year.”
Community engagement has been top of mind for the bank. The bank provided more than $700,000 in grant funding to Central Piedmont Community College to fuel workforce development and COVID relief. And in Raleigh, JPMorgan Chase worked with the Carolina Small Business Fund to provide capital to entrepreneurs and startups in the area. On the lending side, the bank administered more than $400 million in loans, including PPP loans to help businesses navigate the pandemic, Gore said.
“Charlotte is a regional hub for us with a significant concentration of employees there serving the Southeast. It’s a vibrant, growing and dynamic market. As businesses grow to meet the demands of the city’s growing population, we have the ability and expertise to help them grow wisely, manage their capital and improve their competitive position in the market,” Gore said.
Though not new to Charlotte, Self-Help Credit Union has been keen on helping local small and minority-owned businesses before and during COVID-19. The Durham-based credit union’s PPP focus targeted small businesses, minority businesses, women’s businesses and nonprofits, Charlotte Executive Claudie Johnson told Invest:. Recently, the credit union doubled down on these efforts by partnering with the cities of Salisbury and Statesville and Livingstone College to help women- and minority-owned businesses finance loans of up to $15,000 to help grow their businesses. “We are excited to partner with the Cities of Salisbury and Statesville in their efforts to support minority and women owned small businesses as that’s a focus area of ours already,” Johnson said in a press release.
As the local unemployment rates stabilize further and vaccine distribution efforts help clarify the light at the end of the tunnel, the question arises: what is in store for the Queen City’s banking sector? Featuring Fite, Gore, and Johnson, the “What’s Next For One Of The Nation’s Preeminent Banking Hubs?” panel will kick off this year’s Invest: Charlotte 2021 launch conference happening on May 12 at 11 a.m. Moderated by McGuireWoods Partner Staci Rosche, these industry leaders will mull the future of Charlotte’s banking sector. Click here to register for the conference.
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