On the money: Richmond area banking news recap for 2021

Richmond banking news for 2021

Essex Bank, headquartered in Henrico, was acquired by larger peer United Bank. (BizSense file photos)

The year started and ended with some M&A action between regional banks.

First came the marriage of Henrico-based Virginia Commonwealth Bank and Blue Ridge Bank out of Charlottesville. While billed as a merger of equals, Blue Ridge was technically the acquirer and the Blue Ridge brand is the surviving flag, hoisted for the first time in the Richmond market. Shortly after the deal’s closure, VCB CEO Randy Greene stepped down with little explanation.

The other sizable deal was that of Henrico-based Essex Bank being acquired by United Bank out of Washington, D.C. and West Virginia. United has since taken over all of Essex’s branches and Essex CEO Rex Smith stays on to lead United’s Richmond-area operations. The deal also led to the layoff of dozens of local Essex employees, which is typical of such combinations.

New Horizon Bank’s sole branch. The Powhatan-based bank was acquired by CSBH.

Another change of ownership occurred in the market, though not through typical M&A. New Horizon Bank was taken over by a group out of New York whose plan is to turn the one-branch $105 million Powhatan bank into a growing institution focused on expansion around Richmond and beyond, mainly through online banking.

A temporary Peoples Bank sign was hung on the former Premier Bank building at First and Marshall streets on Sept. 20.

In addition to United and Blue Ridge, two other bank brands made their debut in the Richmond market during the year. Henrico-based Sonabank rebranded to become Primis Bank, while Ohio-based Peoples Bank took over the longtime Premier Bank location at the corner of First and Marshall streets in Jackson Ward as the result of an acquisition.

First Bank’s Richmond branch at 5601 Patterson Ave.

Another out-of-town deal led to a change in Richmond, as Strasburg-based First Bank swooped in and bought the local operations of Smart Bank, a Tennessee-based institution that exited the market after a merger with a peer from its home state.

The ongoing transition triggered by the merger of SunTrust and BB&T continued to ripple through Richmond during the year, in the form of a sizable round of branch closures and office shuffling.

The entrance of Wells Fargo’s campus at 4340 Innslake Drive in Innsbrook.

In other big bank news, Wells Fargo shifted hundreds of jobs from Innsbrook out of state, while Capital One laid off nearly 200 workers that had been based at its West Creek compound.

The big banks also did some branch shuffling, with Wells Fargo and Bank of America each closing a local branch during the year, and Chase Bank continuing its streak of opening new outposts in the area.

Regional players did some expansion of their own, as Atlantic Union Bank opened its first location in the sought-after Scott’s Addition, and TowneBank found a spot for its first branch in Short Pump.

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