04/29/12 — Southern Bank named one of top regional banks in U.S.

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Southern Bank named one of top regional banks in U.S.

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 29, 2012 1:50 AM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Southern Bank and Trust Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of Southern BancShares (N.C.), Inc., was recently ranked seventh among the country's 25 top-performing regional banks for 2011 by SNL Financial.

The bank was eligible for the ranking because of its acquisition last September of 21 branches of the Bank of the Commonwealth from the FDIC -- 17 in Virginia and four in North Carolina. They are the Mount Olive-based bank's first out-of-state branches.

"We are very pleased to be rated among the top-performing regional banks in the country," said Drew Covert, bank president and chief operating officer. "While much of this was largely due to our recent acquisition in Virginia, it reinforces our commitment to the core values that have served us so well over the past 111 years.

"Those conservative values have built and maintained a strong foundation for our company. As such, they enabled the very acquisition which fed our financial performance in 2011."

Grey Morgan, bank chairman and chief executive officer, said the ranking not only is a sign of the bank's strength and stability, but also underscores a change in the traditional perception of the company as a small community bank to that of a more regional institution.

"We are certainly honored and excited to be recognized as a top-performing bank on such a broad landscape," Morgan said. "While this change in perception will not change who we are as a company, it is a reflection of the growth and prosperity that we continue to enjoy.

"We are very excited about our future and look forward to continue serving our communities for many years to come."

The bank had never been rated before because it did not meet the definition of a regional bank until after the acquisition, said John L. Heeden, bank senior vice president/marketing director.

"The definition of a regional bank, as it applies to this rating, is any bank with over 60 branches and total assets of less than $50 billion," Heeden said. "Prior to the acquisition we only had 56 branches. We now have 65.

"So the No. 7 ranking is among all banks in the U.S. that meet those criteria. In that respect, it is quite exceptional."

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 also received the five-star Superior ranking -- the highest possible ranking -- by independent bank rating firm BauerFinancial Inc. of Coral Gables, Fla.