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Rick Saunders, CEO
Rick Saunders, CEO

Rick Saunders, CEO of First Reliance Bank based in Florence, has joined the Advisory Board for the Florence County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO) Foundation.

“This Foundation will help equip the Florence County Sheriff’s Office with additional resources to carry out their duty to protect and serve our community,” said Saunders. “I look forward to working with my fellow board members to support this important effort.”

The newly formed foundation’s funds will be used to provide life-saving equipment and to help deputies and their families in the case of an emergency. The foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit in partnership with the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation.

In 1999, with 19 years of banking experience, Saunders founded First Reliance Bank, which has since grown to nearly $775 million in assets. First Reliance employs 178 associates with branches in Florence, West Columbia, Lexington, Columbia, Mount Pleasant, Downtown Greenville, Taylors, Simpsonville, and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. ...


First Reliance Bank, a community bank located in Florence, S.C., today announced the formation of a new board of trusted advisors in Charleston. The Charleston Local Advisory Board is comprised of members representative of the business community in Charleston whose focus will be to help drive the bank’s priorities in the Lowcountry. This formation is part of First Reliance Bank’s larger growth strategy across the state.

The board is chaired by Heather Aydlette, whose more than 20 years of experience in private and public accounting as a business advisor, accountant and auditor, well positions her to lead the board and guide the bank with strategic planning in a priority market.

“We are fortunate to have the expertise of the Charleston Local Advisory Board members advise our strategy as we seek to grow our presence in the market,” said Frank Bullard, Charleston market president for First Reliance Bank. “They will act ...


Leslie Chaplin, Executive Vice President and Director of Human Resources
Leslie Chaplin, Executive Vice President and Director of Human Resources

Veteran leader joins to manage bank’s employee relations and recruitment

Leslie Chaplin has joined First Reliance Bank as executive vice president, director of human resources. Based in Columbia, S.C., Chaplin will oversee the human resources department across the bank’s footprint in South and North Carolina, including managing recruitment, employee relations, benefits administration, training, payroll and compliance.

“Leslie’s extensive experience in human resources in the financial sector will be invaluable to our teams across the Carolinas,” said Rick Saunders, CEO of First Reliance Bank. “She will lead the effort to build on the bank’s plan for transformational growth and help us recruit and retain the best talent for our customers.”

Chaplin brings nearly 25 years of experience providing human resource management in the financial industry. She is well-versed in employee relations and training and will work to streamline benefit administration and negotiations. She received her bachelor’s degree and a Master of ...


Rick Saunders, CEO
Rick Saunders, CEO

Rick Saunders, CEO of First Reliance Bank in Florence, has joined the Board of Governors at the College of Charleston School of Business.

“We are pleased to welcome Rick as the newest member of our Board of Governors,” said Buddy Darby, chairman of the College of Charleston School of Business Board of Governors. “Rick is a well-respected community and business leader in South Carolina, and his expertise in commercial banking will bring fresh insights and perspectives for the students and for the program at large.”

In 1999, with 19 years of banking experience, Saunders founded First Reliance Bank, which has since grown to nearly $711 million in assets. First Reliance employs 175 associates with branches in Florence, West Columbia, Lexington, Mount Pleasant, Charleston, Greenville, Taylors, Simpsonville, Myrtle Beach and a loan production office in Columbia in South Carolina. The bank also has a branch in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Mooresville, N.C. ...


Blake Dressler, Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Lender
Blake Dressler, Senior Vice President and Senior Commercial Lender

Brings local experience to commercial lending team

Blake Dressler has joined First Reliance Bank as senior vice president and senior commercial lender. Based in Mount Pleasant, S.C., Dressler will be responsible for building and maintaining relationships with business customers offering advice on business accounts, loans, treasury management services, mortgage, and investments through First Reliance Wealth Strategy along with personal banking services offered to business owners and their employees.

“We’re excited to welcome Blake to our commercial lending team in Mount Pleasant,” said Rick Saunders, CEO of First Reliance Bank. “He knows the Charleston market well and will be a valuable asset to our customers across the state.”

Dressler brings over 13 years of experience in the banking industry, most recently serving as senior vice president of commercial banking at a community bank. He received a B.A. in business management and real estate from the University of South Carolina and completed ...


Michael Edens, Senior Vice-President, Private Banker
Michael Edens, Senior Vice-President, Private Banker

Industry veteran brings more than two decades of experience to new role

Michael Edens recently joined First Reliance Bank as senior vice president and private banker. Based in Columbia, S.C., Edens will be responsible for building and maintaining relationships with business customers and providing counsel on a variety of services, including personal and business deposit accounts, loans, treasury management services and investments available through First Reliance Wealth Strategies.

“Michael is a seasoned private banking professional, and he brings a wealth of experience to our team in Columbia,” said Rick Saunders, CEO of First Reliance Bank. “His business-savvy approach to banking will serve our clients and their interests well.”

Edens joins First Reliance with more than two decades of experience in private banking, most recently as a senior vice president at Southern First Bank. He received a B.A. in finance from Wofford College and completed Louisiana State University’s Graduate School of ...


F. Justin Strickland, President
F. Justin Strickland, President

New Senior Leader to Facilitate Additional Growth

First Reliance Bank has hired longtime banking industry executive F. Justin Strickland to serve as President of First Reliance Bank as it continues to expand its presence throughout North and South Carolina. The bank has recently invested heavily in tenured leadership who have spent their careers in the Carolinas and have built reputations as leaders in the industry. 

Mr. Strickland will serve as President of First Reliance Bank, where he will oversee the bank's commercial platform. The latest executive hire in CEO Rick Saunders’ growth strategy, Strickland joins a robust leadership team that is dedicated to further positioning First Reliance Bank for transformational growth. 

Rick Saunders, CEO of First Reliance Bank, said the following regarding the new hire, “Justin’s expertise, industry knowledge and reputation as a commercial banker are unparalleled. As the last hire in our long term growth strategy, Justin will not ...


Brook Moore promoted to the position of chief credit officer.
Brook Moore promoted to the position of chief credit officer.

Bank Continues to Build New Leadership Team as Market Growth Continues

First Reliance Bank announced today that Brook Moore has been promoted to the position of chief credit officer. Moore will succeed Jack McElveen, who will remain in a credit leadership position with the bank.

Moore and McElveen have nearly twenty years’ experience working together, initially at a Columbia based community bank and later at First Reliance Bank. McElveen spoke to the tenured relationship, saying, “Brook and I first formed a professional relationship almost two decades ago when we worked on a senior management team together. I am excited and pleased to have the opportunity to hand-select him as the next Chief Credit Officer at First Reliance Bank. I have high confidence in his ability to move the company to the next level.”

Bringing in Moore is the latest move by CEO Rick Saunders to strengthen a leadership team that ...