Florence banking community flourishes over the years
This excerpt of the article was posted, Wednesday, March 23, 2016 8:00 am in the Morning News. The article was written by and is posted in Courtesy of JOE PERRY Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org The full article can be viewed by clicking on the following link: http://www.scnow.com/news/business/local/article_f5652b8c-ed18-11e5-9401-4bce3de4e58e.html
FLORENCE, S.C. – When Rick Saunders was a young man still finding his way in the world, he fell in love. With the finance industry.
“I tripped over myself and landed in it,” he said, laughing. “I was a typical young man concerned about what path in life I would take.”
The 55-year-old Sumter native who grew up in Timmonsville first worked in consumer finance before delving into banking.
“It wasn’t until a company I was working for was sold to a much larger organization that I realized the need for clarity around my beliefs and the definition of success,” he said.
During this defining time in his life, the concept of First Reliance was born.
Having innovative ideas and his creativity stymied was also “extremely frustrating,” he said, and when his brother Paul and good friend Dale Porter came up with the idea to start their own bank, he was intrigued.
And yet he freely admits to never having the ambition to start his own company.
“Zero,” he said.
Deciding to personally define what made him happy, however, changed his perspective. He, his brother and Porter concluded that their goal was to build a company that could deliver reliability and trust for the customer while offering a workplace that fostered growth and creativity. “Hence the name ‘Reliance’ and our tag line – ‘There’s more to banking than money,’” he said.
An environment of unity and trust with the desire to build a strong, lasting and unique culture were high on their list, alongside putting an emphasis on purpose and values.
“And two, that this company would never be successful if I didn’t hold the belief that you win with people, not talent alone,” he said.
First Reliance Bank opened for business in 1999, and within 60 days, it was capitalized with $7.2 million.
“This achievement was the most successful de novo bank ever started in Florence County,” he said. “Community support, coupled with an aggressive growth strategy, led to a profit after only five months of operation.”
Saunders said there are now six branches, 120 associates and assets of nearly $380 million.
“I’ve never, in the 17 years we’ve been open, lost my passion for this industry," he said. "There’s few industries that really make a positive difference directly to people’s lives. Banking is one of those. I love helping people achieve personal life goals. Having that direct impact, I’ve never lost that passion.”
There are many banks in Florence and in the Pee Dee region, as Saunders and others have noted.
Citing FDIC statistics, Kevin Dietrich of the South Carolina Bankers Association points out there were 19 banks serving the Florence metropolitan statistical area in June 2010 with total deposits of $2,622,647,000.
As of last June, the area was served by 17 different banks with a combined $2,757,542,000 in deposits, according to the FDIC.
“This was an increase in deposits of nearly $99 million from 2014,” Dietrich noted, and a nearly $135 million increase from 2010.