People - April 2006
At an age when most executives are retired, Charles Snipes started a new job. But then, being 72 at Granite Falls-based Bank of Granite Corp. is different than being that age at other companies.
That’s because of the standard set by John A. Forlines Jr., 88, who stepped down in January as chairman after more than 50 years as the company’s top executive. The corporation is a holding company for the 100-year-old bank once heralded by billionaire investor War-ren Buffet as the best-run in the United States.
Snipes has been the bank’s president since 1987 and its chief executive since 1994. He became CEO of the holding company in January 2005 after outlasting at least two others whose names had been connected to the jobs. He took over all those positions from Forlines. “I learned a lot of things from John Forlines. The greatest thing was that you’ve got to watch expenses.”
Snipes grew up in Lincolnton. At 19 he tried to volunteer for the Air Force rather than be drafted during the Korean War. A recruiter told him the Air Force quota was filled and referred him to the Army. He served in the U.S. Army Security Agency three years, two of them in Germany, and left the service as a sergeant first class.
He returned to the United States and got a bachelor’s in business administration in 1958 from Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory. First National Bank of Catawba County then hired him as a management trainee. When Charlotte-based First Union National Bank merged with First National in 1981, Snipes was a regional executive of First Union with responsibility for Hickory.
A year later, Snipes toyed with starting his own community bank. That’s when Forlines offered him a job at Bank of Granite. Snipes started there as executive vice president, chief administrative officer and a board member. At that time, the bank had assets totaling $67 million and five offices. Today, its assets exceed $1 billion, and it has 21 offices. Snipes says the bank will consider acquisitions if they fit the bank’s culture. Otherwise, he doesn’t plan to change much.
After finally getting the top job, Snipes has no plans to step down soon. “Several of our board members have asked for a three-year notice when I decide to retire, and I haven’t given it yet.”