Coming off a 2020 regime change that brought in a new CEO, a local bank is taking the next step in what it says is a transformation for the long haul.
Henrico-based Sonabank announced Thursday its plans to rebrand as Primis Bank, effective March 31.
The change also will apply to its McLean-based parent company, Southern National Bancorp, which will become Primis Financial Corp.
Its stock ticker symbol will change from SONA to FRST, a play on the meaning of Primis, which Sonabank CEO Dennis Zember is Latin for “first.”
Zember, who arrived at the bank last year to succeed veteran local banker Joe Shearin, said the change is part of an overall assessment the bank is making of every aspect of its operation as it plots its growth plans.
“We spent the last year looking at everything we do: from the way we provide customer service, to the products and technology we offer,” Zember said. “It’s reinvigorating the culture and the attitude. It’s redefining who we want to be and that led us to looking at everything.”
He said the changes also are aimed at attracting more talent to the bank.
“If we look 18 years down the road, we’re determined we’re going to be a pretty unique organization,” Zember said. “We’re going to pour ourselves into this and we don’t want to get 10 years down the road and not have a brand that’s equally as world class.”
He said the bank has big aspirations for how and where it wants to grow the organization.
“We’re going to have to attract the absolute best and brightest,” Zember said. “From my experience you need the telephone to ring. I can’t get every person I need from a headhunter.”
He added, “I need an environment that makes people want to join our organization and there’s a direct connection between the quality of your brand and name to the kind of culture you run.”
Zember, prior to Sonabank, was president and CEO of Ameris Bancorp in Atlanta. He said Primis, for the bank’s purposes, is being pronounced as “premise.” He said the word also can also be pronounced as “primus.”
He said the bank’s executive team and board came up with the new name on their own.
“We sat around the table one day and said to go home and think of words or human characteristics that we’re all universally proud of,” he said of the idea of being first.
They then hired Code & Theory out of New York to carry out the brand development across organization.
The rebrand marks a slate of changes that have coincided with Zember’s arrival. They included the retirement of Sonabank co-founders and respective executive chairman and executive vice chairman Georgia Derrico and Roderick Porter, and a $60 million capital raise in September.
Derrico and Porter founded Sonabank in McLean, Virginia, in 2005. It has since grown, partly through acquisitions, to $3 billion in total assets and 42 branches in Virginia and Maryland.
Zember said there’s more to come.
“There are some changes on the horizon,” he said. “Give us two or three months and we’re really going to wow you.”