COMMITTED TO COMMUNITY
142-Year-Old Bank Finds Perfect Fit in Montgomery
by Jennifer Kornegay
Photography by Robert Fouts
BB&T may be fairly new to Montgomery, but this bank is by no means new and not at all new to the South, two facts that BB&T Area Executive Guy Davis believes made it the right choice to buy Colonial Bank.
“Colonial was a big part of the Montgomery community, and some banks might not have fit into Montgomery as well and as naturally as we do,” he said. “The good thing about BB&T is that we are a Southern bank with 142 years of experience banking in the Southeast.”
The bank, based in Winston-Salem, N.C., acquired Colonial Bank from the FDIC in August 2009 and was proactive in its approach to its new market, making a big statement with a large donation. “One of the first things that BB&T did when it came was give a $100,000 gift to United Way,” Davis said. “We wanted the community to know that we are here to stay and ready to be a real part of things.”
The bank has given back in other ways as well. Davis chaired the United Way drive last year, and BB&T’s Lighthouse Project puts aside money in each community that allows bank employees to get involved in local charities in a hands-on way. “It goes further than just writing a check,” Davis said.
Today, BB&T operates 13 branches in five counties in Central Alabama, the area that Davis oversees. The Montgomery native and Auburn grad has been with BB&T for two years. He was quick to point to BB&T’s strength as it major asset. “We were one of three banks in the country that did not have a money-losing quarter at any point during the financial crisis,” Davis said. “BB&T does not owe the federal government any money for TARP; we paid it back at the earliest opportunity.”
Davis also explained what he believes sets BB&T apart from the crowd of banks in the area. “All banks offer similar products and services; what makes a bank different is its people, and ours are great,” he said. “Also, we are the ninth-largest bank in the country, but we operate on community bank model, so the decision-making that is important to our clients is done locally, and that’s different from many large banks. But the breadth of our products and services separates us from smaller banks, so it’s really the best of both worlds.”
Others — including the bank’s customers — seem to agree with Davis’ assessment. In 2010, Greenwich Associates, a national organization that measures customer satisfaction for banks, gave BB&T 20 out of 20 possible points. “We were first bank in our peer group to receive that,” Davis said, “and the award was based strictly on feedback from our clients.”
But it’s not all rosy. BB&T, like other banks and financial institutions, currently faces some strict new regulations, which, according to Davis, can stifle the banking industry and business in general. “The regulatory environment is as stringent as it ever has been in my 22-year career as a banker,” Davis said. “That regulatory pressure creates uncertainty in the business community and can hinder growth and investment in businesses.”
Despite this challenge, BB&T is sticking to a core philosophy of serving its customers. “Regardless of the regulatory environment, we are going to work with the cards we are dealt and do our best to meet our clients’ needs,” Davis said.
While Davis believes that having BB&T here is a benefit to Montgomery, the Capital City and entire River Region have been good for BB&T, too, as Davis explained. “I think Montgomery is one of the best places to do business in the country as evidenced by the local economic development,” he said. “I recognize that there are businesses and individuals in this community hurting, but we still see the River Region as having a more stable economy than many others.”
As a result, BB&T is looking forward to its future in Montgomery and will soon be a part of all the activity downtown when it moves its corporate headquarters to the new RSA Dexter Avenue Building this spring.
“BB&T typically likes to have a presence in downtown areas, and the excitement of everything going on down there really drew us in,” Davis said. “We’re happy to be another addition to the great growth going on downtown.” •