First Bank takes over Cooperative|New bank in town due to FDIC action

Published 3:23 am Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Staff Writer

The First Bank of Troy began operating area branches formerly run by Cooperative Bank of Wilmington as part of an FDIC-brokered takeover deal for the failed bank.
First Bank President and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Ocheltree said all the First Bank branches opened without problem Monday.
“That’s the FDIC’s role, to find a healthy institution,” said LaJuan Williams-Dickerson, spokeswoman for the Federal Deposit Insurance Commission.
New signs were hanging over the old Cooperative Bank signs on the banks Monday.
The bank will stay in the markets that Cooperative served, he said. And in the mean time, account numbers, checks, debit cards and so forth will remain the same in what Ocheltree called “business as usual.”
“I really want to try to put those customers’ minds at ease,” he said.
Williams-Dickerson said personnel decisions, such as whether current staff at the various branches will remain in place, are up to the purchaser, and not matters of FDIC policy.
Those decisions haven’t been made yet, but the bank’s not looking for a major purge, Ocheltree said.
“We’re not a slice-and-dice-type bank,” he said.
Ocheltree said the bank will consider eliminating duplicative branches, particularly in areas where the old First Bank and the old Cooperative Bank overlapped, which means the southeastern part of the state.
The bank president said many decisions simply haven’t been made yet.
“This thing was handed to us so fast,” Ocheltree said.
Ocheltree couldn’t go into the details of Cooperative’s problems, but said it suffered in part from “overexposure” in real estate development loans. He said First Bank’s loss-sharing agreement with the FDIC will protect the acquiring bank.
First Bank calls itself the fourth-largest bank in North Carolina. It has more than $3.5 billion in assets, and operates branches in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
Prior to acquiring Cooperative’s branches, First Bank’s nearest branch to Washington was in Kenansville, in Duplin County. Most of its existing branches are concentrated in the south-central region of the state.
Cooperative Bank’s 21 branches in North Carolina and three branches in South Carolina will now be added to First Bank.
The move came after the N.C. Commissioner of Banks shut down Cooperative on Friday. The bank was one of three closed by regulators that day. The other two were in Kansas and Georgia.