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Columbia Business Monthly

South Carolina Welcomes The Next Gen

By David Dykes

The 2,400-square-foot banking center on South Main Street in Greenville certainly isn’t overwhelming.

But as Fifth Third Bank’s first banking center in South Carolina, it represents a much larger development than you might think.

While Fifth Third Bank has had experienced bankers in the Upstate since 2011 - a team of commercial and, more recently, private bankers - the addition of a banking center solidifies the company’s commitment to the Greenville community and expansion in this market.

Driven by the increasing role of digital tools in customers’ lives, there has been a shift in how customers use retail bank branches. Bank officials say the Greenville banking center will feature Fifth Third’s Next Gen approach to help meet those needs and expectations.

The Next Gen branch features:

  • Mobile bankers using technology that allows them to meet and serve customers in a variety of settings. Rather than having teller “windows,” the new space gives employees the freedom to move around the lobby. Bank officials say tablet computers encourage a more direct and personal way of serving customers.
  • A tech wall with a dynamic digital screen. 
  • Flexible meeting and seating areas, with layers of privacy that can adjust depending on the need and the type of conversation taking place.

Located in Greenville’s Historic West End District, the banking center is the first in a planned expansion for Fifth Third in South Carolina, with its regional headquarters in Charlotte.

Fifth Third Bank, part of Cincinnati-based Fifth Third Bancorp, a diversified financial services company, expects to open more than 20 Next Gen banking centers in the Carolinas during the next 18 months.

“Right now, our focus is on Greenville,” Greg Carmichael, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Fifth Third Bancorp, one of the largest U.S.-based consumer banks, said in an interview, adding the bank will open four more local branches.

“Why is that? One is I lived here a long time ago (while working for General Electric), and I really appreciate the community itself, the very business-friendly state that it is, the great climate, easy proximity to the mountains and the East Coast. It’s just a good place to raise a family. You’re seeing that with the population shift and businesses moving to the area.”

Yet, he knows there is competition around nearly every corner.

Last year, SunTrust and BB&T combined in a historic merger of equals to create Truist, one of the nation’s largest U.S. bank holding companies, and it leads the Greenville-Anderson area in deposit-market share.

Truist had a 16.63 percent share of Greenville-Anderson deposits, according to the Federal Deposit  Insurance Corp.’s annual survey of branch office deposits as of June 30.

Trailing were Wells Fargo Bank (15.08 percent), TD Bank (13.54 percent) and Bank of America (10.87 percent).

Statewide, the top three were Wells Fargo (18.59 percent), Bank of America (15.48 percent) and Truist (12.22 percent).

Still, Carmichael accepts the challenge because he says it affords a great opportunity. And Fifth Third has the wherewithal to make things happen.

As of June 30, Fifth Third had $203 billion in assets and operated 1,122 full-service banking centers and 2,456 ATMs with Fifth Third branding in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia, Georgia and North Carolina.

Fifth Third Bancorp reported third-quarter 2020 net income of $581 million compared with net income of $549 million in the year-ago quarter.

It reported diluted earnings per share of 78 cents, compared with diluted earnings per share of 71 cents in the year-earlier period.

Further, credit losses were well below previous expectations with a net charge-off ratio of 0.35 percent, the lowest level since the second quarter of 2019.

“Our financial performance once again highlighted the strength of our franchise and our ability to navigate the current environment,” Carmichael said in his earnings CEO commentary. “Our already strong capital and liquidity levels further improved this quarter, and our credit performance was better than previous expectations, indicative of our balance sheet strength which will serve us well throughout this challenging environment.”

Fifth Third planted its flag in Greenville with the opening of its commercial loan production office led by Charlie Arndt. He is well known among area sports fans as a player who fashioned one of the finest careers of any goalkeeper in South Carolina Gamecock soccer history.

How did Fifth Third get its name?

In 1871, the Bank of the Ohio Valley was purchased by the Third National Bank. With the turn of the century came the union of the Third National Bank and the Fifth National Bank, and eventually the organization became known as “Fifth Third Bank.”

Carmichael was named president in September 2012 and was appointed to the board of directors in July 2015. He became CEO in November 2015 and was elected chairman in January 2018. 

Before joining Fifth Third, Carmichael was vice president and chief information officer for Emerson Electric, a worldwide provider of technology and energy solutions. He also worked in several information technology and leadership assignments at GE.

From about 1993-1996, he was CIO of GE Gas Turbine operations in Greenville. 

At Fifth Third, he is credited with technological innovation, stronger analytics and more centralized, consistent operations.

And now South Carolina is coming clearly into focus.

In Greenville, “This branch is representative of our growth in the Carolinas and the future of how we will engage with our clients,” said Tommy Lloyd, senior vice president and Fifth Third Bank retail executive for the Carolinas. “The branch design focuses on an open environment equipped with the latest technology aimed at delivering personal customer service to provide the best experience and advice for our clients.”  

As part of a grand opening celebration at Fifth Third Bank’s banking center in Greenville, Carmichael, along with local bank representatives, presented a check in the amount of $12,000 to Loaves & Fishes of Greenville.

Loaves & Fishes reduces hunger in Greenville County through rescuing food that would otherwise be wasted and delivers it to partner agencies for distribution to those in need.

Well done.