Personnel File - April 2008: Financial Services
Bank of Granite, Granite Falls
Talk about a rock and a hard place. When Scott Anderson took over as CEO of Bank of Granite in January, what Warren Buffett once called “the best-run bank in the United States” was facing a crisis of its own making. A few months earlier, Nasdaq had threatened to delist it for failing to file third-quarter earnings. When it finally did in February, it reported a loss of $22 million — $1.40 a share — because it said it needed to set aside $42.7 million to cover bad loans. It ended up losing $15 million in 2007.
“We are embarrassed by the situation we find ourselves in,” Anderson says, “but it is something that has happened and must be dealt with. It’s not easy because you want to be out first with your numbers and have them reliable and accurate. This is not an enviable position, and we don’t intend to be here again.” Bank of Granite’s reputation was what had drawn him when he was recruited as chief operating officer in 2004. “It has had an iconic place in North Carolina banking. It was a more than flattering opportunity.”
In 30 years of banking, Anderson has witnessed the waves of consolidation that have transformed the industry. A branch manager with Forsyth Bank and Trust at 22, he became a commercial lender when it merged with Southern National in 1982. Promoted to marketing executive, he kept the job through Southern National’s merger with BB&T in 1995. He left to become president of Bank of Mecklenburg in Charlotte in 1997. After RBC Centura bought it in 2000, he was regional president for central North Carolina.
Founded in 1906, Bank of Granite had been by comparison a rock of stability. Since 1954, it had been run by John Forlines, who retired as CEO in 2005 and as chairman in 2006 — at age 88. His successor was Charles Snipes, then 73, who had been with the bank 22 years. Snipes relinquished the CEO job in January and will retire as chairman at the stockholders meeting in May. Among such company, Anderson might seem a kid, barely qualifying for an AARP card. “Fifty-two may seem young, but for a community bank it’s not uncommon. Everyone in my team, with one exception, is 52 to 54. They all have 30-plus years of experience but still have a ways to go until retirement.”
Right now, he’s focused on getting the bank back on track. “We do intend to innovate and grow beyond our current footprint, either by de novo operations or by possible opportunities for a merger partner. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing because we’ve always done it well. I don’t think we need to completely change direction, but we do need to keep innovating.”