SCBT to become South State Bank

krupon@thestate.comFebruary 17, 2014 

  • Where to find them here

    SCBT has a branch on Boundary Street in Beaufort; on Fording Island Road in Bluffton; on Whyte Hardee Boulevard in Hardeeville; on Main Street and on William Hilton Parkway on Hilton Head Island; on Sea Island Parkway on Lady's Island; and on South Jacob Smart Boulevard in Ridgeland. It also has an ATM on Office Park Road on Hilton Head.

    First Federal has a branch on Forest Oak Road in Bluffton; on Exchange Street, Palmetto Bay Road and Lighthouse Road on Hilton Head; and on William Pope Road in Okatie.

— Columbia-based SCBT Monday unveiled its new name -- South State Bank.

With its new name and plans to spend up to $20 million on improvements, the bank is positioning itself as a growing regional powerhouse.

A $2 billion-asset company in 2009, the bank has grown into an $8 billion-asset bank with a presence throughout the Carolinas and Georgia as it has snapped up a half-dozen banks over the past four years. As it has grown, the bank, originally Orangeburg-based and operating only in South Carolina, has been operating under five differing names in different regions.

The new branding -- complete with a new blue-and-gold color scheme -- brings all of the bank's names under one umbrella. The banks' charters also have been consolidated, and its ticker symbol eventually will change, though chief executive officer Robert Hill said the new symbol has not been released.

"Together, as a group, we're going to be much stronger than any of us were separately," Hill said Monday at the bank's headquarters on Gervais Street in the Vista.

The rebranding is an important step as the bank continues to grow, Hill said. "At the end of 2013, there were fewer banking companies in America than at any time since records started being kept in 1934," Hill said. "That number's going to continue to go down. … We've positioned ourselves to be the consolidator of choice in the Southeast."

SCBT's latest acquisition was Charleston's First Federal. That deal put SCBT at about the same size -- based on assets -- as Columbia-based First Citizens Bank and made it one of the largest headquartered in the state.

South State Bank will roll out its rebranding in the coming year. Most branches will be renamed June 30. First Federal branches will be renamed July 21.

Bank cards and checks will be re-issued as they come up for renewal so most consumers won't see a major impact, bank officials said.

The company also plans to spend up to $20 million on new hardware and software, replacing ATMs and acquiring new technology that will allow consumers to make transfers between banks and deposit checks by snapping a photo of them with their cell phones.

South State Bank now has 139 locations and about 2,200 employees, most of whom gathered in Columbia for a celebration marking the name change Monday. About 600 of the bank's employees are in the Midlands, Hill said. He added the growing bank eventually will create more jobs in the area -- though he didn't say how many or when.

The bank will focus on integrating First Federal into its operations and making technology upgrades through the end of the year and then look to grow further, Hill said.

Starting in 2015, the bank plans to continue its growth strategy, with a goal of growing into a $15 billion-asset company over the next five years.

"We certainly have opportunities right in front of us," Hill said.

The bank is nearing an important threshold, said Tim Koch, a finance professor at the University of South Carolina and a community banking advocate. When it reaches $10 billion in assets -- which could happen within the next couple of years, Hill said -- the bank will be subject to "pretty onerous" federal regulations that will drive up its cost of operations, Koch said.

Hill said reaching that level will add about $10 million in operating costs as the bank has to hire additional employees to deal with regulations. He said the bank plans to pay that cost out of efficiencies created during the current consolidation. The bank's regulations would not get stricter again until it reaches $50 billion in assets.

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