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Banking & Finance

First Carolina To Open Full-service Branch

By Jenny Callison, posted Jun 7, 2019
First Carolina Bank, which has maintained a loan production office in Wilmington since September 2017, will open a full-service branch here. The new branch will occupy about 8,500 square feet in Bradley Creek Station, a new 80,000-square-foot office building that will be built on Oleander Drive.
 
The project is by SAMM Properties Inc., led by developer Steve Anderson; First Carolina Bank is financing the project.
 
“We just closed on the construction loan, and construction will be underway very soon,” said David Rizzo, First Carolina’s Wilmington market executive. “That project will be unique and will look different.”
 
Rizzo expects that the bank will move out of its current office space in another Steve Anderson development, The Offices at Mayfaire IV, and into its new branch sometime during the first quarter of 2020.
 
Wilmington will be Rocky Mountbased First Carolina’s fourth market to serve with a range of products and services. In addition to its hometown, the bank has branches in Raleigh and in Reidsville. It has assets of about $565 million, and officials expect to reach $1 billion in 18 months, said Ron Day, president and CEO.
 
Day said the bank has about $62 million in capital, enough to “allow us to grow comfortably to $750 million, but more capital will be needed for us to reach $1 billion.”
 
First Carolina has strong relationships in the Wilmington area, Day said. Not only were some of its initial investors Wilmington residents; it has completed three capital raises involving local investors since opening its loan production office here.
 
“Two of our 10 board members live [in Wilmington] and one has a second home there,” Day said. “We pay a lot of attention to Wilmington.”
 
As it grows into new markets, First Carolina does not plan to plant its flag with a lot of brick and mortar, Day said.
 
“Our strategy is that you need one point of contact that is physical in each market, and serve that market through that location,” he said. “We have one branch in Raleigh. We just add a person when needed, not square footage.”
 
That has meant an efficient and effective use of technology, he said. “We can add functionality reasonably easily to deliver services remotely,” Day said, noting that, with just one branch in its hometown of Rocky Mount, First Carolina now has the market’s largest deposit share.
 
The bank, then owned by a Michigan bank holding company, was purchased by Day and a group of investors in 2012 and renamed First Carolina Bank. Its policies and procedures were aligned with banking regulation changes that followed the Great Recession.
 
“We are designed for today’s regulations, and we have a culture of regulatory compliance,” Day said.
 
In a story May 13, Business North Carolina wrote about the dwindling number of banks headquartered in the state. “More than ever in N.C. history, control of our banking industry resides in boardrooms in other jurisdictions,” the story stated.
 
But it cited two “nimble smaller players” that find ways to compete successfully against the big banks and online lending, money transfer and investing services. One was First Carolina Bank, which Business North Carolina said was demonstrating a path forward for small community banks.
 
The story quoted Day as saying, “We are one of the few remaining locally capitalized and growth-oriented community banks that has very experienced people serving our business and professional customers.”
 
First Carolina keeps an eye out for those “very experienced people” who can provide entrée into new markets. It’s in the process of opening a loan production office in Virginia Beach, where bank officials identified an experienced banker who wanted to join the First Carolina team.
 
“By the time we open in Virginia Beach, we will have already booked enough business there to put us in the black within the first month,” Day said.
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