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CharterBank comes to Covington
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CharterBank’s banners were put up Monday, and company employees worked to integrate their newly purchased Covington location into their network.

The location at 7200 Highway 278 was purchased from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation after the federal agency shut down the failed McIntosh Commercial Bank; CharterBank purchased three other McIntosh branches.

According to a summer 2009 FDIC market-share study of Covington banks, McIntosh had the seventh largest amount of deposits among the 12 banks in the city; that equates to a 5.43 percent market share.

CharterBank CEO Robert Johnson said the Covington branch has $42 million in deposits. Newton Federal Bank has the largest market share with $202 million. CharterBank is based in West Point, and Johnson said the company was looking to expand in Georgia.

"As a community bank with branches in east Alabama and west Georgia, we were primarily interested in stepping beyond our I-85 footprint and crossing up to I-20 to Carrollton and Bremen. Carrollton is convenient to our branches in LaGrange," he said in an e-mail.

When asked about the Covington location in particular, Johnson said the company was still evaluating what it has.

"Basically, we have two thoughts on Covington: (1) it is a very attractive community from a banking perspective; and (2) it is much too early to talk about any long term plans. No slight of Covington is intended, but our focus, so far, has been on Carrollton and Bremen. That was McIntosh’s home turf and it is the biggest part of what we bought," Johnson said. "We are a relatively small bank and getting our arms around that big chunk is our first priority. Our integration team will arrive in Covington soon. For now, we are just trying to make sure that all of our new employees and customers know that everything is OK and that it is business as usual."

As of now, CharterBank has not bought the symbolic McIntosh building, complete with its towering Georgian-style columns. Johnson said his bank is leasing the building from the FDIC, but CharterBank will have an option to purchase it after an appraisal is created.

"Our ability to continue in that location depends, obviously, on the FDIC’s asking price," he said.

As far as future goals, Johnson said the company would like to gain more market share, hopefully, moving up to the third or fourth largest bank in the city. CharterBank would need to add about $20 million in deposits to pass Farmers and Merchants Bank for the third position.

"We’ve got some work to do and you’ve got good, smart bankers in Covington who are not going to give business away," he said.

When asked if his company was looking to expand in Newton County or the surrounding cities, Johnson said not yet.

"We’ll have to look at where people live, work, shop and their everyday patterns. We believe in the power of networks and that means having enough customer touch points to provide an attractive level of customer interaction and convenience. Those touch points are evolving in our business, but we believe, bottom line, that this is a person-to-person business and that branches and service hours are still important to most people," he said.

Customers visiting McIntosh’s Web site will notice it’s been taken over by the FDIC. On CharterBank’s home page they have a welcome note to former McIntosh customers.

CharterBank opened in 1954 and is a $1.2 billion-in-assets bank holding company with 17 bank branches.