MOULTRIE — Two acquisitions announced at the end of January will increase the number of Ameris Bank branches by almost 50 percent.
Ameris Bank, headquartered in Moultrie, had 73 locations at the end of 2014, but if regulators approve its purchase of 18 Bank of America locations and all 13 banks owned by Merchants and Southern Banks of Florida, it will grow to more than 100 sites.
One of the affected locations is the Bank of America branch in Moultrie.
“With this transaction, Ameris will further strengthen its Georgia and Florida market presence with the acquisition of a low-cost funding source and an attractive customer base, as well as expand the Ameris team with experienced and talented associates, with a minimal amount of integration and execution risk,” said Ameris President and CEO Edwin W. Hortman Jr. “This will position Ameris as the largest independent community bank operating in our South Georgia and North Florida footprint.”
(Ameris has acquired 21 branches or banking companies since 2000. Click here to see the full list from Ameris's investors report.)
Ann-Stanton Cannarella Gore, corporate marketing manager for Ameris Bank, said the bank expects federal regulators to approve the purchases in June of this year.
The Bank of America in Moultrie, located across the street from an existing Ameris location, is expected to remain open, Gore said, although many details are yet to be worked out.
“That banking team’s going to stay there at that location,” she said. “… We’re excited to have them on our team.”
Other Bank of America locations involved in the transaction include three in Albany and one each in Dublin, Fitzgerald, Hinesville, Thomasville, Tifton and Waycross, Ga., as well as two in Lake City, Fla., and one each in Blountstown, Cross City, Defuniak Springs, High Springs, Jasper and Live Oak, Fla.
Merchants and Southern Banks of Florida owns 13 locations — nine in Alachua County, three in Marion County and one in Clay County. Ameris is buying the entire company, pending regulatory approval.
“At this time we are still waiting on regulatory approval,” Gore said. “Until we receive regulatory approval we can’t properly evaluate all locations; however, our intent is to keep all offices open. Additionally, we are going to have a broader customer base and don’t anticipate losing any employees.”
Bank of America customers may find their accounts serviced by Ameris after the deal goes through, or may not. A sheet being provided to Bank of America customers says deposit accounts, such as checking, savings, IRAs and certificates of deposit being serviced at the locations being sold will transfer over to Ameris. Some loans are included, and safe deposit boxes and their leases will transition.
Other accounts — like credit cards, mortgages, merchant services accounts, small business loans, Merrill Lynch investment accounts, and U.S. Trust and Merrill Lynch Wealth Management personal and business deposit accounts — will not transfer to Ameris, the sheet said.
“If any of your accounts are affected,” the handout says, “Bank of America will send you a notice through mail or email. Until the transition is complete, you will be able to use Bank of America accounts, ATM/debit cards, banking centers and drive-ups without interruption. Ameris Bank will also communicate with you to ensure a successful account transition.”
The sheet urges customers to speak with a bank representative or go to Bank of America’s online banking website to make sure their contact information is up to date.