Thursday, September 27, 2012
The streetscape of Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe and LaFayette changed when First Volunteer Bank signs were installed at former Gateway Bank & Trust branches throughout Northwest Georgia.
Shareholders on April 16 approved First Volunteer’s acquisition of Gateway. On Saturday, Sept. 15, the final step in that takeover was completed when First Volunteer’s signs were installed.
Bank officers say the only visible changes should be those signs; in all other regards it will continue to be business as usual for new and former customers.
“This is where the two become one,” First Volunteer Bank Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Todd Wanner said last week. “We [First Volunteer] bring insurance and expanded mortgage capabilities as well as mobile and Internet banking tools.”
As part of the merger, First Volunteer Bank acquired and immediately retired about $6.9 million of TARP (troubled asset relief program) money owed by Gateway. Now, First Volunteer Bank’s more than $653 million in assets combined with Gateway’s $249 million in assets is creating a 280-employee, 24-branch bank that is locally owned and operated.
“Today marks the start of an exciting new era for First Volunteer Bank,” said Patti W. Steele, president and CEO for First Volunteer, during the transition. “We are excited to be a part of the growing Northwest Georgia market. Our customers in Ringgold, Fort Oglethorpe and LaFayette will see the same faces they are accustomed to seeing and can depend on the same great service.”
Steele said the local bank’s name might change, but not the commitment to community banking.
“Our approach to banking is pretty simple,” she said. “We gather customer deposits in the communities we serve and reinvest those deposits by way of loans to your friends, neighbors and small business owners. Northwest Georgia deposits will be loaned to customers in our Northwest Georgia communities.”
Wanner said First Volunteer is healthy, having made money every quarter during the recession, and has about $100 million in excess cash available to lend.
“Our only stipulation is that all loans are local,” he said. “Whether for home mortgages, individuals or small businesses, our first rule of lending is character: know who you are dealing with as a financial partner.”
Fewer than a dozen Gateway employees lost their jobs due to the merger, mostly due to elimination of duplicated “back office” operations, Wanner said.
“All front-line operations will have the same smiling faces,” he said. “The big thing is that we are not changing services, we are adding to them.”