BY VEENA RAO
A new community bank that prides itself in being a
high-tech, high-touch bank opened doors in Fayetteville,
Georgia in November 2007. The State Bank of Georgia (SBG), a
state charted FDIC insured bank is located on the major
east-west corridor between Fayetteville and Peachtree City,
one of the main growth corridors in the county.
Organized by a diverse group of 21 business professionals,
SBG is a reflection of the international flavor that Atlanta
has, says bank president and CEO Jerry Stapleton.
“Our board of directors represents a cultural cross-section
of our community, and is a reflection of the international
flavor that Atlanta has.”
The board includes several Indian-Americans, including bank
chairman Dr. Chandler Sharma.
While most banks start off with a marginal unit or store
front, SBG was fortunate to find the perfect building to
house the bank off Gingercake Road in Fayetteville. From the
tastefully done interiors of this building, an energetic
group of 14 professionals promote “relationship banking”.
“Our people are trained to learn about you and your family,
and to analyze your needs,” says Stapleton. “We are not
order takers. We actually do care, and provide personal
attention to each customer.”
As an example, he talks about his relationship with his dry
“I have been dealing with the same drycleaners- a small mom
and pop operation- for 20 years. There have been occasions
when they have lost my shirt or messed up my pants. But I
still keep going back, because when I walk in, they greet me
by my first name, and ask me about my family. That’s
important to me.”
Stapleton says he applies the same concept to banking. “What
a wonderful concept. Everybody who walks into the bank, we
call them by their first name.”
The bank has a sunset rule where all phone calls and emails
receive a response before the end of the day.
“I am as accessible as anybody else at the bank,” adds
Chief Lending Officer Mike Teal says that when a customer
calls SBG, he speaks to a person, as opposed to larger banks
where you end up talking to a machine.
“Our bank personnel understand all elements of banking and
have the experience to deal with any situation and to direct
people to the best solution for their needs,” he adds.
The top five bank officers have a total of 158 years of
Says Stapleton: "We know what it takes to compete in an
arena of mega-banks. We have recruited the finest talent in
banking, because we knew that to be successful we had to
have good people. We have seasoned commercial and consumer
lenders as well as seasoned mortgage lenders."
One of the advantages of opening a new bank is bringing in
new technology. SBG has state-of-the-art technology and
offers electronic and internet banking. Their "remote
capture" machine, which is getting popular, allows customers
to bank from anywhere. At $25 a month (and a one time set-up
fee of $30), businesses can run
their checks through a little machine that's smaller than a
printer, in the convenience of their office, without ever
having to come to the bank.
The idea to open a multi-cultural bank was born out of a
“kitchen table” discussion. Chief Financial Officer Kevin
Sharpe, a former regulator in the Dept of Banking & Finance,
and past CFO at the Capital City Bank felt that there was a
need for a minority owned bank in the area. He got together
a group of 2-3 people, who brought in other people from
different communities. Along the way, it made sense to
change the thinking to a culturally diverse bank rather than
a minority bank.
SBG’s marketing strategy is to be a little bit better than
other community banks, says Lydia Morris, senior retail &
marketing manager. She prides herself in remembering every
“Every customer is just as important,” she says. “A lot of
banks have gotten away from that [relationship banking].”
The bank plans to open another branch and loan production
offices throughout Atlanta in the foreseeable future.
Stapleton is positive about the future of banking, in spite
of number of community banks jostling for attention amidst
fears of recession.
“Whether small or big, all banks are pretty well
capitalized, so they can weather the storm,” he says. “As
long as Atlanta continues to grow, there will continue to be
new banks, and plenty of business.”