High Point Bank branching out

Apr. 07, 2013 @ 12:05 AM

For the first century of its existence, High Point Bank focused primarily on its hometown.
In recent years, the bank has grown into other parts of the Triad, opening a branch in Kernersville in 2007 and following with locations in Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
Now the bank, which has been family owned throughout its history, is expanding its presence further, with plans to build a flagship office in Greensboro at 715 Green Valley Road. Plans are to have all of the bank’s lines of business featured at the new location, with retail and commercial bankers, as well as representatives from the bank’s trust and investment division, mortgage services, and subsidiary HPB Insurance Group housed there.
High Point Bank has assets of about $817 million, placing it among the top 25 community banks statewide. Locally, it still ranks first in the High Point banking market with about one-third of all deposits in the city.
President and CEO Mark Williamson said the new office in Greensboro, along with a retail branch due to open this summer on Stratford Road in Winston-Salem, will allow the bank to serve growing customer bases.
“We’re obviously committed to High Point. We’ve been here since 1905. We also know we’ve got to grow, and we’re going to grow into the Triad in those two very important cities,” Williamson said.
High Point Bank never engaged in subprime mortgage lending or other types of risky financial instruments that were common among larger institutions leading up to the financial crisis. The bank never took bailout money from the federal government and emerged from the Great Recession in good shape, Williamson said.
“We’ve got a lot of capital. I think that this bank has taken a position through the years of being a conservative organization serving the communities,” he said.
The bank first established a presence in Greensboro in 2008. Since then, asset growth in that market has exceeded projections by about 20 percent, primarily in the form of commercial loans.
Williamson said loan demand remains tepid, but he believes the worst effects of the recession are over, and that’s why the bank is moving forward with its growth strategy.
“Normally, you lead with loans, and deposits typically follow when you enter a market,” he said. “We lead with commercial loans. That’s where we make our money.”
He said he also sees growth opportunities in the areas of trust and wealth management.
“Unlike a lot of community banks, we have a large trust division, and the assets in our trust division are almost as big as the bank itself,” Williamson said. “We’re in growth mode in terms of our retail investment business. We’ve also been in the insurance business a long time, so that likewise is very important to us.”
The bank has 10 locations in High Point, Greensboro, Jamestown, Kernersville and Winston-Salem, where it opened a commercial banking office in September 2012. In Greensboro, the bank will retain its retail office at 1431 New Garden Road and relocate all banking and insurance personnel from its commercial office at 324 W. Wendover Ave. to the new office when it is complete some time in 2014.
Across the industry, electronic transactions are supplanting paper transactions, as more and more customers do their banking remotely. Williamson said High Point Bank’s lobby traffic has been declining 10 to 15 percent per year for some time.
The bank will continue to have tellers to serve walk-in and drive-through customers at its branches, but not on the scale it once did.
“Community banks will always be in the relationship business, so we will never go to a model where it’s only technology in terms of how we interface with customers,” he said. “We’re going to have to be smart about how many brick and mortar offices we have, and the ones we do have, we’re going to have to be thoughtful about how we design them.”
He said he hopes the customer loyalty and community goodwill that have been key factors in the bank’s longevity will carry over to its growth areas.
“We want to carry that same culture and service experience to Greensboro and to (Winston-Salem),” he said. “We think if we do that, we’ll be successful.”