01/11/12 — After expansion, Southern Bank consolidating branches

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After expansion, Southern Bank consolidating branches

By Staff Reports
Published in News on January 11, 2012 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Southern Bank and Trust Co.'s local branches are not part of the bank's plans to consolidate and close some offices of the former Bank of the Commonwealth of Norfolk, Va., that Southern Bank purchased last fall.

"This is just the newly acquired branches. It does not affect any of our legacy, original Southern Bank offices," bank spokesman John Heeden said this morning.

The consolidation, scheduled for completion Feb. 29, is also expected to reduce the number of employees .

A realignment plan for branch operations in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, as well as the Outer Banks region in North Carolina was announced Friday by Grey Morgan, chairman and chief executive officer of Southern Bank, and its president and chief operating officer, Drew Covert.

The Bank of the Commonwealth was closed by Virginia state bank regulators on Sept. 23 and its branches opened the next morning under the Southern Bank banner.

According to Covert, the realignment plan exclusively involves the consolidation of the 12 offices of the former Bank of the Commonwealth and is designed to establish a stable, profitably sustainable branch network in Southern Bank's newly acquired markets.

Eight of the branches are in the Hampton Roads area and the other four in the Outer Banks region, Morgan said.

Covert added that the consolidation would result in a reduction of bank employees in that region, but that every measure was being taken to be as fair as possible throughout the process.

"These decisions are difficult for all of us," he said. "From the very beginning, we have pledged to our new employees to be transparent and fair as we progressed through this transition process.

"As such, all employees in the affected region are being given the opportunity to apply for any branch positions in the region, regardless of the future status of their particular branch. So although a branch may be scheduled to consolidate, some of its employees very well may work at other Southern Bank offices in the region."

When the realignment is completed on March 1, Southern Bank will have 11 branch locations serving the Hampton Roads and Outer Banks regions.

Customers of branches scheduled for consolidation will begin receiving mailed notices with details regarding the consolidation process beginning this week. Notices will also be posted in branch locations scheduled for consolidation.

The process will not affect any customer deposits or account numbers and customers can continue to use their checks, credit, debit and ATM cards and will still have online access to their accounts.

"Our overarching objective is to establish a stable and profitable branch network in the region that does not inhibit our ability to continue meeting the financial needs of our core customers and the surrounding communities," Covert said. "While we recognize this represents a substantial realignment of the previous branch network, taking these necessary steps today will put us on a direct path toward healthy, sustainable and profitable growth in our newly acquired markets."

The consolidation plans reflect the banks commitment to strength and stability, Morgan said.

"We want our customers to understand that this is about restoring our Hampton Roads branch network to a profitably sustainable operation," he said. "Rest assured, Southern Bank is here to stay, grow, and prosper. We are very excited about the future we share together in our new markets, as well as our legacy markets in North Carolina."

Founded in 1901 as the Bank of Mount Olive, Southern Bank and Trust Co. has total assets approaching $2 billion and provides a broad range of financial services to individuals, businesses, professionals and the medical community through a branch and ATM network spanning eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. Southern Bank has received the five-star Superior ranking -- the highest possible ranking -- by independent bank rating firm BauerFinancial Inc. of Coral Gables, Fla.