Realignment plan has local impact

Published 9:05 am Monday, January 13, 2014

The Askewville branch of Southern Bank and Trust Company is among four local offices (12 total) impacted by a realignment plan announced Wednesday by company officials. Other local Southern Bank branches scheduled to close are in Aulander, Roxobel and Woodland. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

The Askewville branch of Southern Bank and Trust Company is among four local offices (12 total) impacted by a realignment plan announced Wednesday by company officials. Other local Southern Bank branches scheduled to close are in Aulander, Roxobel and Woodland. Staff Photo by Gene Motley

MT.OLIVE – Four Roanoke-Chowan area financial institutions will close by the end of May, according to a realignment plan announced Wednesday by Southern Bank and Trust Company’s corporate office here.

According to J. Grey Morgan, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Southern Bank, the realignment plan for branch operations in North Carolina will impact 12 offices, to include three in Bertie County (Askewville, Aulander and Roxobel), as well as Woodland in Northampton County.

According to a local Southern Bank official, the closing of the four R-C area branches affects eight full-time employees and one part-time worker.

“I’m happy to say that none of our full-time employees at the local offices impacted by this realignment will lose their jobs,” said Jerry Alexander, Senior Vice President and Regional Supervisor of Southern Bank’s Northeast Region, who works out of the Ahoskie branch office. “The eight full-time employees are being redeployed to our other local branches and the one part-time employee is eligible for retirement.

“That’s a big deal for us,” Alexander continued. “These employees are part of our family, and like your family you do not want to see anything bad occur. We’ve always prided ourselves here at Southern Bank in looking out for own employees.”

The realignment will not impact Southern Bank’s plan to open a branch office in Jackson. Those plans were officially announced in late May of last year when Southern Bank & Trust officials signed paperwork on an option to purchase land on the northern outskirts of Jackson.

Alexander said those plans have changed as company officials have instead purchased the old PNC Bank located on Jefferson Street (US 158) and are in the process of refurbishing that building with an anticipated opening of Feb. 18. PNC closed its Jackson branch in July of last year.

“It will be a full service, centrally located branch office for Southern Bank,” Alexander said of the Jackson facility. “We have added a drive-through service window there as well as purchasing some land behind the bank where we’ve doubled the number of parking spaces and widened the driveways.”

As it was announced in May, the Jackson office will force the closure of the Seaboard branch.

“Our plan all along was to do that, open the Jackson office and consolidate the services in Seaboard at the new location,” Alexander stated. “We will still keep the idea open of possibly building a new bank in Jackson north of town on NC 305.”

Other Southern Bank branches to close under the realignment plan are in Battleboro, Dudley, Hamilton, Lucama, Norlina, Pikeville, Pollocksville, and Sims.

When the realignment plan is completed on May 30, 2014, Southern Bank will have 65 branch locations serving North Carolina and Virginia. That includes maintaining a strong presence in the local area with branch offices remaining open in Ahoskie, Gatesville, Lewiston, Murfreesboro, Windsor and Winton. As mentioned earlier, the Seaboard branch will remain in business until the Jackson office opens.

As far as the overall realignment, Morgan said the plan is designed to allow Southern Bank to maintain a stable, profitably sustainable branch network under the new regulatory, economic and operating environment confronting the industry.

“Practically every business in the country has found it necessary to make cost saving changes in their operations over the past three years and the banking industry is no exception,” said Morgan. “One of our main objectives in this realignment initiative is to continue serving the rural and low-to-moderate income areas surrounding our communities as efficiently as possible, while enhancing our ability to provide dependable banking services to our communities both now and in the long term. This realignment plan achieves that objective. With the exception of two outlier branches, we will continue to serve the counties where we are presently located with minimal service disruption or inconvenience to our customers.”

According to Drew Covert, President and Chief Operating Officer of Southern Bank, the realignment plan of its branch operations is also in response to customers’ gradual migration to online and other self-service banking channels over the past decade.

“We want our customers to understand that this is about adapting our service and branch delivery channels to fit their banking needs and habits,” said Covert. “Our ultimate objective is to maintain a profitably sustainable branch network for the future, without inhibiting our ability to serve the banking needs of our customers and communities.

“Our customers can rest assured that Southern Bank remains a very strong bank and is among the safest, soundest banking institutions in the country. We are here to stay, grow, and prosper and remain very excited about our future,” he added.

Covert said the realignment plan would be a gradual process during the first half of 2014 and should be completed by June.

Customers of branches scheduled for realignment will begin receiving mailed notices with details regarding the consolidation process beginning the third week of January. Notices will also be posted prominently in branch locations scheduled for consolidation. The consolidation process will not affect any customer deposits or account numbers. Customers can continue to use their checks, credit, debit and ATM cards and will still have online access to their accounts.



About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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