Originally created 07/15/06

Bank to branch out to Aiken



Georgia Bank & Trust Co.'s parent company announced Friday that it has received regulatory approval to open a full-service banking operation in Aiken.

The bank's holding company, Southeastern Bank Financial Corp., said its application for a federal thrift charter was approved by the Office of Thrift Supervision on Wednesday, exactly one year after the Augusta-based company announced plans to expand into the South Carolina side of the two-state market.

"This is the one we've been waiting for - it's official," said R. Daniel Blanton, the president and CEO of Southeastern Bank Financial Corp. and Georgia Bank & Trust.

The company's Aiken operations will be called Southern Bank & Trust. The first office will be at 1001 Pine Log Road, where a building formerly occupied by Southern Gallery is being renovated into a bank branch that is expected to open in mid-September.

Before its incarnation as an art gallery, the building was a Farmers & Merchants Bank branch. Company officials said the structure still has a teller line, drive-through window and security cameras.

"We are excited to ... be able to schedule the opening of our first office," said Frank A. Townsend III, the president and CEO of Southern Bank & Trust.

Other officers of the new bank include Darrell R. Rains, chief financial officer; Mark J. Wills, chief credit officer; Jason Davis, construction lender; and Angie Ormand, office manager.

Southeastern also announced three additions to its proposed board of directors:

- Dr. Randy W. Cooper, a partner with University Surgical Associates PC

- Patrick D. Cunning, CEO of Sidewood Development, parent company of Woodside Development LLC and The Reserve @ Woodside

- Donald P. Howard, assistant professor of management at Augusta State University and founder and president of Genin Corp.

All directors are subject to approval by federal regulators.

Southeastern Bank, with $922 million in assets, is the Augusta-Aiken area's largest community bank, with eight Augusta-area offices, an Athens, Ga., office and a mortgage office in Savannah, Ga.

The company's over-the-counter traded stock closed at $40.05 Friday.

Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3486 or damon.cline@augustachronicle.com.



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