Living Here Guide

Charlotte’s banking sector still recovering, and still key in community

In Charlotte, the recovery from the worst U.S. economic downturn since the Great Depression continues.

Yet we’re still Banktown; we’re still the No. 2 financial center in the country, after New York City. And the Charlotte area’s financial services sector is still a major employer – thanks to behemoths like Bank of America and Wells Fargo, which, combined, employ tens of thousands in the region.

Mecklenburg County had about 52,116 finance sector workers last year, down roughly 3,100 from 2006 but up from the low point of 48,145 that it dipped to in 2009.

Wells Fargo – which scooped up Wachovia when its bet on adjustable-rate mortgages went bust – maintains an East Coast hub in Charlotte, where it has more employees (22,100) than its headquarters city of San Francisco.

Charlotte-based Bank of America employs approximately 15,000 here, its largest U.S. employment hub. But in the largest single layoff in the city by a major bank since 2009, Bank of America this year announced plans to cut 540 Charlotte employees in its division that handles troubled mortgages.

Citigroup, Fifth Third Bank, SunTrust Banks and Wells Fargo have also cut mortgage-related jobs in the region in the past year.

But there are encouraging signs of growth here, too.

Charlotte has become a corporate center for Detroit-based Ally Financial since the crisis; the lender employs roughly 800 people in the region. And last year, MetLife consolidated its U.S. retail operation to Charlotte, where it opened a hub in Ballantyne. The hub is expected to employ 1,300 by 2015.

Mortgage companies and other lenders also continue to set up shop in Charlotte. Birmingham, Ala.-based BBVA Compass announced this year it is opening a 12,000-square-foot office in uptown focused on business lending. And B2R Finance, a subsidiary of private equity giant Blackstone Group, this year set up its largest office in Southpark.

At the same time, banks continue to be charitable cornerstones in the community, providing funding for the arts and other projects. In July, Bank of America pledged $10 million to support a campaign to raise money for the Charlotte Symphony and other arts groups.

And banks have naming rights to prominent sports and entertainment venues all over town: the Carolina Panthers play football at Bank of America Stadium, the Charlotte Knights play baseball at BB&T Ballpark, world-famous musicians play at PNC Music Pavilion and golf’s best compete every year at the Wells Fargo Championship.