Wachovia's new S.C. president discusses plans for future of banking in the state

CHARLESTON -- Rick Redden, Wachovia's new president for South Carolina, suspects his desire to work at the bank formed two decades ago, as a kid living in Winston-Salem, N.C., when the bank was based there.

He was hired by Wachovia in 1993, right after earning an MBA from Georgia Tech, and has worked for the lender ever since.

Redden, 37, first became a manager a decade ago and quickly rose through the bank's ranks to become risk director for the Carolinas Banking Group.

Winston-Salem is the place where he mostly grew up -- his family moved around a lot but Redden said his love affair with Charleston started in 11th grade, while attending Wando High School in Mount Pleasant.

In 1996, Redden and wife, Angela, also a Mount Pleasant native, jumped at the chance to return to Charleston.

Q: With a state-best $11 billion-plus in deposits -- 18.6 percent of the market -- how important is deposit growth for Wachovia in the state?

A: Deposit growth has slowed. It has slowed for the industry.

A lot of that slowing is caused by the interest rate environment. When interest rates are higher for shorter-term products, such as certificates of deposit, deposit growth slows.

Q: How concerned are you with the housing market?

A: The housing situation has been very good for South Carolina, particularly on the coast, where prices were very high.

Myrtle Beach, Charleston and Hilton Head Island have a lot of inventory houses that are taking longer than before to sell.

We think the bottom is still ahead of us.

Q: Do you have any other concerns about the economy?

A: Unemployment has been a persistent issue in South Carolina.

The unemployment rate is not broad based. In certain markets it is very low, but then in some interior markets the rate is high.

Q: Will Wachovia expand in the state?

A: We're in a growth mode.

There's increased competition from community banks. We're adding branches and adding staff, such as private bankers, in the state.

I feel like good service is a growth strategy because our customers are our best cheerleaders.

We're adding branches on the coast because that is where the largest population growth is occurring.

Q: Do you plan to continue living in Charleston?

A: Yes. ... Charleston is home, but I plan to be in Columbia and Greenville every week.

My previous role with Wachovia had me traveling to Virginia, North and South Carolina, so I am used to being on the road.

Q: Any word about changes for Wachovia's S.C. headquarters in Columbia?

A: Not at this time.