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With GB&T gone, which bank will cash in?

Local banks seize opportunity left by SunTrust merger

POSTED: May 7, 2008 5:01 a.m.

As the completion of the merger of Gainesville Bank & Trust and SunTrust nears, there are likely to be a few bankers looking for a job.

What’s more, the competition knows it and welcomes the chance to hire a professional who already knows the market. And it helps if you have a stable of customers who might come with you.

"This is an opportunity for all of the local banks and certainly for us," said Bill Blanton, chairman of First Century Bank on Dorsey Street. "This offers a chance for us to find some incredibly gifted bankers and we will certainly try to take advantage of it."

Ditto for crosstown rival Peach State Bank & Trust.

President Ron Quinn said for the right person, he may hire even if the position isn’t in the planning budget.

"We’ll go out there and entertain the opportunity to get an experienced person in our market," Quinn said.

Quinn had one person contact him on the day the merger was announced, but he said that some personnel have been offered monetary incentives to remain at GB&T until the bank conversion is complete this summer.

"If you can find somebody that knows the local market and knows local people, a lot of time they can bring their own book of business with them," Quinn said.

The term book of business refers to existing loan customers whose loans are on the books of a new loan officer’s previous bank. The idea is to lure those customers to the new bank, often with some improvement on the terms of the loan.

Blanton contends Gainesville Bank & Trust did not have the degree of problems of other banks of GB&T Bancshares. "Gainesville Bank & Trust was very well run. Does it have problems? Sure. But it doesn’t have anything approaching the issues that the rest of the (GB&T) system had," Blanton said.

He said Gainesville banking customers prefer someone established in the local market.

"Gainesville is a lot more provincial than you’d expect for a town that size," Blanton said. "You’re only going to get somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of a person’s book of business."

Aside from potential staff changes, Quinn, who is a former Gainesville Bank & Trust officer, said his bank has already been reaching out to GB&T customers.

"We started our effort once the merger was announced," Quinn said. "GB&T was a great community bank, but when a bank gets ready to buy another bank, it opened the door for us," he said.

It remains to be seen how the situation affects the proposed Chattahoochee Bank of Georgia. The bank, which is in the organization stage, is expected to make a stock offering by sometime in May and plans to open later this summer, according to a news release issued this week.

Quinn said the greatest window of opportunity will continue through the end of summer, when the SunTrust/GB&T transaction is completed.



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