Don Worthington

SCBT gets new name but retains same personnel, local control

When the National Bank of York County first opened in July 1996, the bank’s 10 employees stapled crisp $1 bills to account applications to attract customers.

With two other community banks – Rock Hill Bank & Trust and the Bank of Rock Hill – recently opened, National Bank of York County officials knew customer service had to be their first priority.

The National Bank of York County’s goals were to make “banking simple” and to make sure its bankers were “flexible and responsive” to the community.

Eighteen years later, the lesson of that July opening still rings true for the National Bank of York County. The bank’s name has changed; it’s now the South Carolina Bank & Trust of The Piedmont, SCBT for short. Deposits and assets have increased dramatically since the bank recorded $1 million in deposits on opening day. Assets in York County now exceed $320 million.

And it no longer is a single bank but part of larger network that spans South Carolina and also has branches in Charlotte, Savannah and northeast Georgia. All told, the network has 138 branches in three states under five brands – a $7.9 billion bank.

Starting June 30 it will have one name: South State Bank.

With the new name, Thomas S. Camp, Piedmont Division president based at the Ebenezer Road location, wants York County bank customers to know nothing has changed.

The bank hasn’t been bought by a larger financial institution. The same people will be working in the branches, and the control still will be largely local.

What changes is the branding power that comes with a single name and the realization for SCBT customers that they are part of a larger network.

“Every account and every individual was extremely important to us, and it’s exactly that way today – not a thing has changed,” Camp said. “The community bank model of local decision-making is alive and well.”

Finding a new name, however, wasn’t as easy as it might seem.

Employees of the marketing departments for each of the five branches came together. They wanted to develop a name and brand that reflected the history of the banks in their local markets – banks in Charleston and Orangeburg had been formed during the Depression, and Community Bank & Trust of northeast Georgia was founded in 1900.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about the words that were important to us,” said Donna Pullen, director of public relations and marketing for SCBT. “Trust was essential. Words such as South, relationships, community, these were pulled from our core values.

“We also wanted to reflect who we are. We didn’t want a name that said big bank.”

Phrases such as “First Federal . . . ” were discarded because they were too common. All told, 357 names were proposed. That list was cut to five names, which were tested before customers and non-customers.

On Presidents Day – a banking holiday – all 2,200 employees of the various banks came to Columbia for the unveiling of new name and logo.

“The result exceeded our expectations,” Pullen said.

So, on June 30, the name changes and the logo colors shift from blue and red to blue and yellow.

But nothing really changes.

“Call yourself what you want,” customers told officials during the rebranding process, “just don’t change my banker.”