Bank of Coweta closing its Court Square branch in downtown Newnan
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
The downtown Newnan Bank of Coweta branch office will be closing later this year — with Nov. 9 set as its final day of operation.
The branch in the historic Reese Opera House has anchored the downtown corner of Greenville Street and South Court Square across from the historic Coweta County Courthouse for 36 years. The closing is part of ongoing changes being made by Synovus, the banking giant that owns Bank of Coweta.
Employees at the downtown branch will be given priority for open Synovus jobs, including those at Bank of Coweta. “They get first shot,” Bell said.
If those employees choose not to seek work within Synovus, they can use services of an outplacement firm to enter a different line of work. “They help with resumes. They help with interviews,” Bell said of the outplacement service.
As a third option, employees can take a severance package.
Bank of Coweta began as an independent local Coweta County bank and placed branches at various locations around the county. Facilities include the main office on Jefferson Street, the downtown branch and branches on Temple Avenue, at Thomas Crossroads and in Senoia.
There was a branch in Luthersville at one time, as well.
Bank of Coweta is now part of Synovus, a banking company with headquarters in Columbus. “Synovus is a large company. It operates in five states,” Bell noted.
From a fiscal perspective, Bank of Coweta accounts for less than one percent of Synovus’ total operations.
Synovus has had four consecutive quarters of financial growth, but that growth follows some difficult days that fueled two restructurings of the company that included the dismissal of 2,000 employees.
Kessel Stelling, chairman and chief executive officer of Synovus, was quoted in a July 28 story in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer describing belt-tightening as “a way of life.” He told the Ledger-Enquirer, “We’ll never be through belt-tightening.”
Stelling also directly addressed branch rationalization – the study of which branches to keep, which to close and how to make them more efficient – saying it is “part of our overall strategy to control expense.”
Synovus does “all kinds of financial analyses” on a regular basis, Bell said.
Bank of Coweta was founded – and grew and thrived – in an era when “a bank on every corner” was a philosophy that drew customers who were paid weekly or bi-weekly with paper checks and who used the bank’s services regularly. Bell said that concept is one that “is not productive in today’s economic climate.”
With the advent of online banking, ATM machines and automatic deposit, all banks are rethinking how and where they offer traditional banking services. Every bank now has “that group of customers who never come into the bank,” Bell noted.
“They can do a transfer from one account to another on their cell phones,” she said.
On a personal level, Bell said she thinks of all Bank of Coweta employees as part of a family.
She said the company also has responsibilities to its shareholders. The downtown branch was the only Bank of Coweta facility that was leased rather than owned.
The closure of the downtown bank marks a trend in banking. Bank of Coweta closed its Lakeside branch off Highway 34 East in June.
Bank of the Ozarks and United Bank both closed area bank branches after acquiring banks that failed. Ozarks closed what has been the First Choice operations center on Highway 34 east of Newnan.
United closed former First Coweta branches at SummerGrove and in Whitesburg and Hogansville. Banking experts have been talking about a potential oversupply of branches for years.
“It’s a different world. It’s a different industry from what it was when Bank of Coweta was formed,” Bell said.
“We’re still here to serve our community,” Bell said. “I think we serve it really, really well.”
There are no plans currently to close the Synovus brokerage office located on the Court Square. The building housing the bank and brokerage offices is a downtown landmark built more than a century ago as the Reese Opera House.