Bank Watch

Park Sterling seeks to boost commercial lending in Charlotte region

Park Sterling Corp. is stepping up efforts to lend to larger businesses in the Charlotte metropolitan area, underscoring the Charlotte bank’s push to grow revenues as low interest rates crimp the industry’s profitability.
Park Sterling Corp. is stepping up efforts to lend to larger businesses in the Charlotte metropolitan area, underscoring the Charlotte bank’s push to grow revenues as low interest rates crimp the industry’s profitability. mhames@charlotteobserver.com

Park Sterling Corp. is stepping up efforts to lend to larger businesses in the Charlotte metropolitan area, underscoring the Charlotte bank’s push to increase revenue as low interest rates crimp the industry’s profitability.

This week, the regional bank announced the hiring of a commercial banking team from Charlotte-based rival CommunityOne Bancorp. The team will report to Doug Smith, also being hired from CommunityOne, to fill a newly created Park Sterling role of western North Carolina regional president.

Park Sterling President Bryan Kennedy said Tuesday that Smith is replacing Judy Wishnek, who had served as Charlotte regional president. Kennedy said Wishnek’s position was eliminated in a restructuring last month as Park Sterling sought to increase its focus on commercial and industrial lending across a larger geographic footprint.

In an email to the Observer, Wishnek said she’s “been amazed by the outreach from the banking community” in response to her departure. She said she’s is still finalizing her next move but plans to stay in Charlotte.

Low interest rates are driving some banks to increase profits through non-interest sources of income, such as services to commercial clients like treasury management, Kennedy said. Low rates are squeezing banks’ net-interest margins – the difference between what banks pay and earn in interest. It’s unclear when the Federal Reserve will again raise rates, which the regulator increased in December for the first time since slashing them in 2008 during the recession.

Kennedy said Park Sterling is looking to do more commercial and industrial lending with companies that have annual revenues of about $10 million to $50 million and operate in the Charlotte region. Gaston County is among markets where Park Sterling sees potential with manufacturing and distribution companies in need of equipment financing or loans for new facilities, he said.

In recent years, Park Sterling has been boosting capabilities to serve commercial clients. For example, last year, the bank launched a new online banking system for such customers. Also last year, the bank introduced in-house foreign exchange capabilities for clients.

Park Sterling, a regional bank that also operates in South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia, recruited the team of bankers from CommunityOne individually, Kennedy said. The move comes as CommunityOne is in the process of being purchased by Charlotte-based Capital Bank Financial Corp. in a deal expected to close by the end of this month.

The team acquired from CommunityOne comprises Reggie Gaither, Ashley Gibson and Tiffani Tedder. They will report to Smith, who will sit in Park Sterling’s headquarters on East Morehead Street.

Under the restructuring, Park Sterling’s Gaston market president, Janet Sarn, will now report to Smith instead of Kennedy.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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