South State Bank is on the grow. Nearly 18 months after the merger of Charlotte-based Park Sterling Bank and Columbia, South Carolina-based South State, the bank is building on its greater asset size and broader North Carolina footprint.
“We’re in a great spot in terms of our size – just under $15 billion,” said Bryan Kennedy, the bank’s division president for North Carolina and Virginia. “We can do a whole [commercial] loan ourselves; there’s no need to find a partner.”
Kennedy visited Wilmington on Wednesday and sat down for an interview, along with David Parker, South State’s eastern North Carolina regional president, and Mark Tyler, the Wilmington senior commercial officer.
After a slowdown last fall following Hurricane Florence, commercial lending in the Wilmington market has picked up, Tyler said. “Opportunities from clients and prospects are much better than in late 2018. Businesses are seeing renewed interest in putting projects on the ground.”
South State has had a strong presence in southeastern North Carolina ever since one of its original companies, First Federal Bank, acquired the assets of the failed Cape Fear Bank in April 2009. The merger with Park Sterling in November 2017 strengthened South State’s assets in the Wilmington market and spread the brand to Charlotte.
What remained was to enter the Raleigh market, Parker said. Both Park Sterling and South State had loan production offices in the capital city prior to the merger. Since then, the bank has been working to expand its physical presence, and on March 25, it opened a full-service branch in north Raleigh. A second Raleigh branch is in the works, slated to open this fall.
While many banks are pulling back on branch locations, financial institutions need a certain physical presence to be competitive in a market, Kennedy said.
Currently, the Wilmington and Raleigh markets combined represent about 25% of South State’s business in North Carolina, according to Kennedy. The remaining 75% comes from the Charlotte metro area, he said, adding that those three markets will remain South State’s focus in the state.
The officials see the bank’s embrace of technology as a key factor in its competitiveness. Parker pointed out that Park Sterling, of which he was eastern North Carolina president prior to the merger, was aggressive in its adoption of technology to support both online and mobile banking. That kind of technology, including a treasury management platform, is now consistent within the South State network and puts South State “way ahead of the competition,” according to Kennedy.
Currently, about 10% of South State's retail accounts are opened online, and about 10% of its loan applications are submitted online.
“We’re looking to expand and improve on all of our technology,” Parker said. “The bank has made a decision to stay ahead of the curve.”