2018 Richmond banking news recap: Union’s rise continues, South State arrives


Union acquired Xenith in a $700 million all-stock deal. (BizSense file photo)

While the M&A market among banks quieted in 2018, there was one local player that kept making moves.

Downtown-based Union Bank & Trust began and ended the year in acquisition mode.

It started 2018 by absorbing Richmond peer Xenith Bank, in a $701 million deal that made Union a $12 billion institution.

Then in August it announced its plan to acquire Access National Bancorp out of Reston to give Union its first significant piece of the Northern Virginia market. The all-stock transaction valued at $610 million would bring the Access National Bank and Middleburg Bank franchises into the Union fold and give the combined companies $16 billion in total assets and more than 150 locations across the state. It awaits shareholder and regulatory approvals in the new year.

south state branch

A South State branch on Staples Mill Road near Willow Lawn. (Michael Schwartz)

South State plants its flag

As Union was out making deals, a $15 billion South Carolina-based competitor arrived in Richmond in a big way.

South State Bank opened here in the spring with eight local branches after completing its absorption of Park Sterling Bank. It wasted no time in increasing its presence in the market, as it signed on for an expanded footprint in revamped space in One James Center downtown.

PNC arrives in RVA

An even bigger bank set up shop downtown for the first time, albeit in a smaller way.

PNC Bank, a $380 billion institution based in Pittsburgh, leased an office in the Riverside on the James building. It’s the bank’s first full-time presence here after years of calling on Richmond from Washington, D.C.

vcb branch

VCB’s branch in the West End. (BizSense file photo)

VCB joins the $1 billion club

Hitting a financial milestone less than two years after its marriage to Bank of Lancaster, Henrico-based Virginia Commonwealth Bank surpassed $1 billion in total assets for the first time. VCB also began its push further into Hampton Roads during 2018, opening a branch at the Virginia Beach oceanfront. There are now five $1 billion-and-up institutions technically headquartered in the Richmond market.

Executive shuffling

The year brought about some interesting moves among local banking executives, none more surprising than the news that Billy Beale is getting back in the game.

Billy Beale

The former longtime head of Union Bank, Beale stepped in as interim CEO at Community Bankers Bank, a struggling Midlothian-based institution. It’s one of only about a dozen so-called bankers’ banks remaining in the country and has been hit by consolidation among community banks, which means its customer base is shrinking.

Out in river country, West Point-based C&F Bank announced a changing of the guard at its highest ranks. Longtime chief Larry Dillon is stepping down, handing the reins to president and CFO Tom Cherry, who the bank has been grooming for the top job for years.

dillon and cherry

C&F Bank’s Larry Dillon, left, will be succeeded by Tom Cherry. (C&F)

Down in Powhatan, the tiny New Horizon Bank filled its CEO seat with a permanent successor to founder Jimmy Keller, who left in summer 2017 and joined a competitor. Stepping in for Keller was Tommy Bourque, by way of a bank in the mountains of North Carolina.

The actions of an influential board member and investor brought some spotlight back on Midlothian-based Village Bank during the year. Kenneth Lehman, a seasoned community bank investor who is Village’s majority shareholder, resigned from his position on the bank’s board. A few months later, Lehman increased his stake in the bank by purchasing $650,000 worth of shares.

Branch moves abound

Who says branch banking is dead?

Local banks continued adding to their location counts during 2018, both inside the Richmond market and outside.

C&F’s branch on Patterson Avenue in the West End. (Michael Schwartz)

C&F Bank expanded further into Charlottesville, while Essex Bank made moves in Maryland and on the Rappahannock River.

Union built and opened a new branch from scratch in Chester, while selling off a previously shuttered location in Charlottesville to a competitor.

New Horizon, armed with its new CEO, also opened a newly built, modern design branch in its home town of Powhatan.

And there’s at least one bank following all the breweries into Scott’s Addition. Virginia Commonwealth Bank is eyeing a location on the ground floor of the Scott’s View mixed-use development that’s currently rising at 1400 Roseneath Road.

This rundown is by no means all-encompassing. Click here for links to all of BizSense’s banking coverage from 2018.

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Bert Hapablap
Bert Hapablap

I think PNC is feeling out the market. If they’re smart, they’ll move in and acquire Union Bank. Virginia is a very promising market and it just makes more sense to acquire rather than trying to grow organically.