Park Sterling income grows 11% from a year ago

Charlotte-based Park Sterling Corp. reported Thursday that its net income for shareholders grew 11 percent in the first quarter from the same time period a year ago, reaching nearly $3.6 million.

Profit narrowed slightly from the fourth quarter, when the bank, the largest regional lender based in Charlotte, earned $4 million. But that decrease comes as the bank embarked on a hiring spree in Charlotte and new markets.

The bank’s personnel expenses grew by about $850,000 as Park Sterling entered the Richmond, Va., market with a new commercial banking team and several new business-line heads in the city.

Park Sterling also hired wealth management bankers in Charlotte and Richmond; commercial bankers in Charlotte, Charleston and Greenville, S.C.; and more retail bankers.

The bank also announced a new mobile app that will allow customers to pay bills by taking a picture of them with a smartphone. The process is similar to mobile check depositing, a feature that can be found on many banks’ mobile apps.

In an interview, CEO Jim Cherry called the ability to use a smartphone to take a photo of a bill and make a payment “the big missing piece to really making mobile banking a bank in your pocket.”

Another new feature allows customers to activate and deactivate debit cards using the mobile app.

Cherry said the enhancements to the app are part of the bank’s strategy to compete with its larger peers as it expands into new markets.

“This allows us to play bigger than our footprint in markets,” he said.