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CertusBank aims to be $5 billion bank in two years

By James T. Hammond

CertusBank aims to use its six Upstate South Carolina branches as the nucleus of a major Southeast regional bank, said Walter Davis, vice chairman of the parent company, Blue Ridge Holdings Inc.

The new bank opened Saturday after acquiring the deposits and branches of the failed CommunitySouth Bank and Trust of Easley, S.C.

The assets of CommunitySouth Bank and Trust represent the first acquisition for Blue Ridge Holdings, which was created last year by a group of former Bank of America and Wachovia bank executives who so far have raised $500 million.

Two-year goal

Davis predicted CertusBank will reach across North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida through an aggressive growth strategy. He predicts that CertusBank will have $5 billion of assets within 24 months, with operations that will reach north and south along Interstate 85, with Greenville as its initial hub.

“Our investors want us to spend the $500 million quickly and come back for more,” Davis said.

“We are very well capitalized. We have a growth strategy,” Davis said. “Some might call it aggressive.”

“We wanted this bank,” Davis said of CommunitySouth. “It has built a great culture of customer service.”

Davis and Chief Administrative Officer Angela Webb said the Upstate can expect an aggressive marketing campaign, with bank personnel calling on potential customers, more acquisitions and organic growth.

Referring to the name of the new bank, Webb noted that Certus is Latin for certain.

“We aim to bring certainty and strength back into our customers’ lives,” Webb said.

Blue Ridge Holdings, the parent company of the new CertusBank, is a virtual who’s who of former senior banking executives from Bank of America and Wachovia. Milton H. Jones Jr. is its chairman, president and CEO. Jones, an Atlanta resident, spent 32 years with Bank of America and was a direct report to its CEO.

Charles M. Williams is a vice chairman and chief operations officer for Blue Ridge Holdings. He formerly was with several international investment banks, and ran the largest portion of Bank of America’s risk portfolio. He lives in Charlotte.

Other Blue Ridge Holdings directors include: Edward J. Brown III; Robert J. Brown; Robert L. Wright; J Veronica Biggins; and Howard C. Bluver, according to the company’s organization order issued by the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

That order listed the operating unit of Blue Ridge Holdings as Blue Ridge Bank. But Webb said that name was simply a place holder until the company organized its first federally chartered bank. Additionally operations of Blue Ridge Holdings will be under the CertusBank brand, she said.

Brand recognition

“We want customers to understand who we are,” said Webb. “We want brand recognition and to grow market share.”

Webb was with Wachovia for 22 years, and served as head of the bank’s human resources department.

The FDIC estimated that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund will be $46.3 million. Compared to other alternatives, CertusBank N.A.'s acquisition was the least costly resolution for the FDIC's DIF, the federal regulators said.

As of September 30, 2010, CommunitySouth Bank and Trust had approximately $440.6 million in total assets and $402.4 million in total deposits.

CertusBank did not pay the FDIC a premium for the deposits of CommunitySouth Bank and Trust. In addition to assuming all of the deposits of the failed bank, the FDIC said CertusBank agreed to purchase essentially all of the assets.

The FDIC and CertusBank entered into a loss-share transaction on $211.3 million of CommunitySouth Bank and Trust's assets. CertusBank will share in the losses on the asset pools covered under the loss-share agreement. The loss-share transaction is projected to maximize returns on the assets covered by keeping them in the private sector, the FDIC said.

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