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New area bank leaders remain focused on community

Banking & Finance
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Recent acquisitions, mergers and leadership changes have highlighted the continued growth of two area banks, but leaders at both organizations say they remain focused on local communities.

Greg Lapointe grew up in Columbia, graduating from Richland Northeast High in 1981 before moving on to The Citadel and graduate banking school at Louisiana State University. And even though his newly announced role as incoming president of Columbia-headquartered South State Bank will mean a relocation to Charlotte, Lapointe said the Midlands, like all communities in South State’s four-state coverage area, will remain a point of emphasis.

“We see ourselves at South State as a true alternative to the big banks,” said Lapointe, who was named as President and CEO John Windley’s successor on July 19. “Our culture is very important to us. A big part of that is having empowered leaders at the local level. We’ve got that in every market.”

South State’s market reach expanded with last year’s merger of South State Corp. with Charlotte-headquartered Park Sterling Corp., a move that created an organization with $14.5 billion in assets operating throughout South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Georgia.

South State Bank, with more than 2,000 employees and 100 branches in South Carolina, is the primary subsidiary of South State Corp., S.C.’s largest bank holding company. It operates in 29 of the state’s 46 counties.

Last month, South State made Forbes’ inaugural list of best-in-state banks, ranking second. Lapointe, in his 33rd year of banking, wants to build on that customer confidence.

“What we never want to be is impersonal, and we never want to be where we’re not listening to our customers,” he said. “We’re right in the sweet spot between small banks and large banks.”

Banking is a personal business for Lapointe, who met his mentor, the late James Nash of the former C&S Bank, while working for a construction company during high school and college summers.

“Seeing him and talking to him and learning from him convinced me that it’s an occupation I should pursue,” Lapointe said. “I was able to do that right out of college and have been in commercial banking ever since.”

Banking has also been a lifelong pursuit for Steve Waddell, recently named market president for Capital Bank’s Midlands market after its merger with First Tennessee Bank.

Waddell, who grew up in the Upstate and attended the University of South Carolina before graduating from Marquette University’s executive development program for banking and consumer finance, is in his 30th year as a banker. Eleven of those have been based in Columbia, where he’s served on various community boards and committees.

“I’ve always enjoyed numbers, and I’ve always enjoyed math,” said Waddell, who planned to major in engineering at USC before realizing he wanted to spend more time working with people. “Being a banker is who I am and what I do, but it’s simply the vehicle that I use to try to help people in our community.”

The December merger of First Tennessee Bank parent company First Horizon National Corp., based in Memphis, and Charlotte-based Capital Bank Financial Corp. created the fourth-largest bank in the Southeast. The new company, with 350 branches in South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia and Texas, has $40 billion in assets, $32 billion in deposits and $27 billion in loans.

The merger allowed Capital Bank to offer additional services, such as wealth management and small business banking, Waddell said, while maintaining its focus on customer attention.

“We have the ability to offer those things from a national level, but we can deliver them on a local level,” said Waddell, who will remain in Columbia in Capital Bank’s Meridian Building office. “We have all the bells and whistles of a much larger institution but we’re local. I’m local. I’m on Main Street, and I’ve been on Main Street for almost 11 years now.”

Like Capital Bank, South State’s growth enables it to offer more services, such as larger commercial loans, Lapointe said. And like Waddell, Lapointe doesn’t intend to lose sight of the individuals his bank serves.

“The three tenets of our bank are soundness, profitability and growth,” Lapointe said. “We don’t want to sacrifice one for the sake of the other. We’re all about the people and we’re all about the customers. Those coupled together make us sound and profitable.”

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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