It’s hard to remember there were a few weeks at the start of 2020 when coronavirus wasn’t part of our everyday vocabulary and life seemed normal.
The local banking scene started the year in somewhat normal fashion as well, with C&F Bank completing its acquisition of Peoples Community Bank on the Northern Neck. C&F also got underway on a new headquarters for its finance division in Henrico.
Then, what could have been an interesting year for bank M&A action was put on hold when the pandemic hit. Still, at least two deals got underway and continue toward the finish line.
Tiny Powhatan-based New Horizon Bank still awaits the closing of its deal to be acquired by a group out of New York, although the details of exactly what the buyers have in mind remain scant.
Virginia Commonwealth Bank, meanwhile, announced its deal to merge with Blue Ridge Bank out of Charlottesville. That deal is expected to close in 2021.
There were several changes at the top of a few local banks over the course of the year. It started just prior to the pandemic, when veteran CEO Joe Shearin stepped away from Sonabank.
The turnover at Sonabank continued less than two months later, when founders Georgia Derrico and Roderick Porter retired as executive chairman and executive vice chairman, respectively.
Out in Midlothian, Billy Beale stepped away from the top of Community Bankers Bank, hiring as his successor veteran Virginia banker Gary Shook.
And Village Bank, riding high after a few good years, announced CEO Bill Foster was riding off into the sunset. He was replaced by Jay Hendricks, who had been groomed for the job.
Branch expansion was perhaps the most noticeable trend in the local banking market throughout the year.
Perhaps most noteworthy among all the action was Chase Bank’s continued push into the region. Its latest branch is in the works at the new Publix-anchored Carytown Exchange development.
Scott’s Addition gained some traction during the year as the next spot for banks to set up shop. Both Village Bank and Charlottesville-based Virginia National Bank signed leases and are working to open their doors in the neighborhood.
Out in the suburbs, TowneBank opened its long awaited first permanent spot in Chesterfield, while Raleigh-based First Citizens Bank took over a former Village Bank location elsewhere along Iron Bridge Road.
Two other out-of-towners made moves in the region, as Abingdon-based First Bank & Trust found a home for its first full-service local branch, and Old Point National Bank out of Hampton Roads broke into the market for the first time with a commercial lending office in Chesterfield.
VBA vs. VCU
A group led by the Virginia Bankers Association is not giving up its fight to stop Virginia Credit Union’s application to allow a statewide doctors’ group to join its ranks. The battle slogged on in the SCC during the pandemic and looks to be spilling over into 2021.
Investor takes aim at Essex
Essex Bank spent some time during the year dealing with a thorn in its side, in the form of an “activist investor” that was doing its best to spur some change at the Henrico-based institution.
Deposits pouring in
Among the most notable effects the pandemic had on local banks during the year was causing a flood of deposits, as customers looked to stash cash away for a brighter day.
Sevier County Bank in Richmond?
Perhaps the most peculiar news in local banking this year was an announcement out Sevierville, Tennessee, from Sevier County Bank. The $400 million institution, led by veteran Richmond banker John Presley and Village Bank majority shareholder Ken Lehman, began its move to expand into the local market. The culmination of the bank’s ultimate plan is something to watch as we reset in the New Year.