The upcoming merger of Norfolk-based Sovran Financial Corp. and Citizens & Southern Corp. of Atlanta yesterday passed what could have been one of its stickiest points: determining corporate structure without bruising corporate egos.
Slated for completion Sept. 1, the merger will join two financial institutions of nearly equal size to form the nation's 13th-largest bank holding company, to be called C&S/Sovran Corp. The new company will have total assets of $50.3 billion and more than 1,000 branches stretching from Maryland to Florida.
Parceling out top jobs and drawing up the corporate organization chart apparently occurred harmoniously, with neither company dominating the process, according to analysts.
The corporation's chairman and chief executive will be Bennett A. Brown, former chief executive of C&S. Dennis Bottorff, former chief operating officer of Sovran, will assume the same title for the new corporation.
"It was originally a merger of equals, and I think that's really what has happened. The best people were taken from each company, rather than, 'you get one, I get one,' " said Elizabeth Hayes, an analyst with Johnson, Lemon in Washington.
Under the structure for C&S/Sovran Corp. announced yesterday, the currently separate holding companies will merge into a single operating company with dual headquarters in Norfolk and Atlanta. The company will be organized around two lines: consumer and commercial services, headed by Albert Gornto of Sovran, and corporate banking and trust services, under Hugh Chapman of C&S.
Such support services as marketing, balance-sheet management and credit policy will be controlled from the top.
Although the corporation plans to combine some services, such as C&S and Sovran credit cards, banks in each state will continue to be managed separately. So Sovran customers at the bank's branches in the District, Maryland and Virginia will hardly notice the difference, said Sovran spokesman Michael Smith. "There aren't going to be any sign changes or check changes," said Smith.
Customers will see a larger selection of services, according to company officials and bank analysts. Smith said one of C&S/Sovran's first moves will be to unite the banks' automatic teller machines so customers can get funds from any one of 850 machines from Baltimore to Key West.
Customers will ultimately benefit from the merger because the strengths of each bank have been preserved, said Anthony Davis, senior vice president at Wheat First Securities. "The quality of service and the breadth of service available will be enhanced over time," he said. However, Davis added that the corporate benefits of the merger won't immediately come to pass because the current downturn in the local real estate market will cut into profits. Both banks are in good financial condition, he said, but the slower economy "makes it difficult to maximize merger benefits."