Mar. 28, 2017

South State Bank

I’ve noticed this particular bank, First Federal Bank, is run by all women. When I thought about it, I realized, I couldn’t remember the last man who worked there as a teller or higher up. After thinking about it for a while, I went in and talked to Lori Lowell, the branch manager, or VP of this bank’s franchise.

The top three ladies in charge are Lori Lowell, VP Branch Manager and employed for over twenty years; Angie Bruinooge, Assistant Manager and employed for over four years; and Charlene Britt, Financial Services Representative and employed for over fifteen years. Collectively, they are over their all-female staff of bank tellers and associates.

“Is it hard to work together being all women?” I asked Lori.

Lori chuckles with amusement and says, “Well, we have our good days and our bad considering we’re all women. There are times when we all have PMS and fuss during the day but at the end of day, we’re all still a team.”

“How do you differ from the boy banks; besides being all women? Do you girls hang out together after hours?”

“No, not really,” Lori says with a shake of her head. “We try to be professional and we strive to leave our personal lives at home.”

To my right, Angie speaks up and says, “We do have some charity events we do so, we will talk some after work as we try to organize these events.”

“What kind of events?” I asked. I was trying to recall a few of them from past memories. There were one or two I can remember. “You mean just to keep things fun?”

“Yes, exactly. Like our Monday morning meetings we try to lighten things up with simple staff games. We also do fundraising on different occasions such as holidays. We have Easter Egg hunts, different games, things like bake sales and such,” Angie answered, while going over the list with Lori.

“What do you do with the fundraised monies? Does the home office select a worthy cause?”

Lori answered, “We donate all of it to a charity. This is something this bank does. It is not a corporate activity, it’s just us.”

We talked a bit about some unrelated issues. You know, just girl talk. Then, I opened up the conversation for the other reason I wanted to write about this bank: They’re changing their name from First Federal to South State Bank.

This bank is merging companies. For those who bank with South Carolina Bank and Trust, First Federal, Community Bank & Trust, The Savannah bank, Minis & Company Investment Advisors and last, but not least, North Carolina Bank & Trust, these companies and financial institutions are merging to become one bank: South State Bank.

“Is this going to be a bad thing?” I asked both of them.

Lori and Angie looked at one another and shook their heads. Angie answered, “No, we’re actually quite excited about the merger.”

“We have a lot more benefits with this new company. It will be like a breath of fresh air,” Lori added. “We’ll have a lot of things with them that we don’t have with First Federal. We’ll have 401 K’s, vacation and sick, insurance: all the amenities.”

When asked about anything they’ll miss or will be hard to change, both ladies agreed seeing the First Federal Bank sign come down is going to be very emotionally difficult for them. “It’s been here for our entire existence,” Lori explained. “It’s like it’s a piece of us and it will be sad to say good-bye to it.”

“And the phone messages and answering the phone,” Angie says with a small laugh, “Having to remember saying ‘South State,’ instead of ‘First Federal,’ is going to be a challenge, at least, for me,”

Charlene wasn’t available to sit in, She was busy, busy, busy but, I’m sure her co-workers expressed her feelings as well. I was barely able to catch a picture of them all together before Charlene left for lunch.

When asked about this merger affecting the customers and their banking experiences, I was assured everyone involved was trying to make this as easy as possible with as little effects as possible for their customers. All of the bank accounts, mortgages, loans, so on and so forth will be the same. It will be business as usual on the surface. It’s only behind the scenes the merger will change.

As I was wrapping things up, Lori said something I thought best described their all-woman run bank, “We’re just a large bank with a small hometown feel.”