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Bank of North Carolina carries on community bank spirit


Bank of North Carolina’s Hendersonville branch is supervised by (sitting) Sarah Ball at left and Lori Longcoy. The staff includes (standing, L-R): Bethany Burrell, Monica Ward, and Brittney Marshall.

By Pete Zamplas-The Bank of North Carolina carries on small-town “community bank” spirit, in two years since opening branches in Hendersonville, South Asheville and Brevard.

The fifth-largest bank in the Tar Heel State began in 1991 in Thomasville, is headquartered in nearby High Point, and is a financial force in the Triangle area. The bank has 34 branches in 24 cities in N.C. including two whose deals close this year, and eight BNC Bank branches in South Carolina, said Senior Vice-President and Area Executive Kevin Watson.

Watson oversees the three WNC branches. They were absorbed in October 2011, in an “FDIC-assisted transaction” after Blue Ridge Savings Bank failed. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) closed that bank due to insufficient capital, and put it up for bids.

“We’re a very sound institution, given the fact we’ve successfully acquired nine banks within three years in a blitz of acquisition activity,” Watson said. “We’ve been in an opportunistic mode.”

Watson noted the bank has grown from $1.63 billion in assets at the end of 2009 to $2.97 billion by last Sept. 30. And in 12 prior months, loan growth was 17 percent. The Bank of North Carolina amassed $257.8 million in equity as of Sept. 30, and has over $3.4 billion in assets, Watson added.

The bank’s tier 1 capital ratio of 10.98 is “well over the threshold for being well-capitalized,” and rose further in the fourth quarter, Watson said. He said, “We were a top bank performer in the Southeast” with stock soaring 115.7 percent last year, to reach a market cap of $448.5 million. Parent company BNC Bancorp trades as BNCN, on NASDAQ.

The Hendersonville branch is at 1012 Old Spartanburg Road, a block north from its intersection with Spartanburg Highway/U.S. 176 where a First Citizens Bank is. The South Asheville branch moved to 1999 Hendersonville Road, near the Royal Pines subdivision, in a former HomeTrust Bank. The Brevard branch is at 130 S. Broad St.

Branch Manager Lori Longcoy, based in Asheville, supervises all three WNC branches. She said a community-oriented bank primarily is “building a personal relationship with the customer.”

“We feel like customers are a part of our family,” said City Executive Sarah Ball. She administers the Hendersonville and Brevard branches. Like most of workers in the Hendersonville branch, Ball is a native. She rose to manager at Mountain 1st Bank and Trust’s South Branch, where she worked for four years.

Having a community stake is a prime asset. “What sets us apart on a daily basis is we’re part of the community, and truly serve the community,” Ball said. “People don’t bank with banks as much as they bank with people. We want to deliver a high level of customer service. from small to million-dollar account. We want to support small businesses.”

First Financial (Mountain 1st) reportedly had weak capital ratios, due to soured loans. Ball spoke of balancing financial soundness with reasonable risk, to help business owners and families during lingering recession. “It has to be good for the bank, but also what’s best for the customer. If a business doesn’t qualify for a loan, there needs to be a valid reason for that.” In seeking practical solutions, “we think outside the box.”

Ball said that in seeking flexibility yet protections, “we don’t like to be a cookie cutter bank, and only fit you into one of three boxes.

Watson, who has also handled commercial lending, said “we provide customized and appropriate solutions. We offer nice, customized commercial lending products.” He said home equity and auto loan ongoing specials are catching on. “At our core, we are truly a community bank.”

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