Regions names new statewide president, outlines plans for expansion

Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 1:57am

Signage on the building formerly known as AmSouth Center was only changed last week.

But Regions Financial Corp. — the company that in the last year acquired AmSouth Bank, and currently sits at the top of Middle Tennessee’s deposit market share ranking — has no plans to stop growing locally.

The company on Wednesday announced that Keith Herron, formerly the area executive for Middle Tennessee, has been tapped to serve as regional president for the state of Tennessee. State operations of Regions are based in Nashville, and company officials plan to continue developing Regions here until the Nashville market becomes the bank’s largest, Herron said.

“[Local operations of Regions] is working very, very well,” Herron said. “My goal is to build on that success.”

Herron said Nashville is the second largest market for Regions, coming in behind Birmingham, Ala., where the company is headquartered. In the next year or two, Herron said, officials hope the greater Nashville area can grow to surpass company performance in Birmingham.

In Middle Tennessee, Regions currently banks $7.4 billion in deposits each year, occupying 24 percent of the area’s market share, and maintains 122 branches and approximately 2,000 employees.

Herron said Regions also plans to continue buying land and building branches throughout the state, particularly in sub-markets where Regions has a smaller presence. Statewide, Regions has a total of 350 branches in 62 of Tennessee’s 95 counties, according to the company.

Increasing the size of Regions, Herron said, adds to the level of convenience for customers. Company growth also allows the company’s investment banking subsidiary, Morgan Keegan & Co., to be better positioned to compete for the Southeast’s largest deals.

Underscoring Middle Tennessee’s importance to the company, Regions formally announced Wednesday that Nashville is now the formal base of operations for the bank’s Tennessee activities. Prior to the merger, the Regions state headquarters was in Memphis, and the AmSouth state headquarters in Nashville. A spokesperson for Regions said the bank’s decision to base state operations here, rather than in Memphis, was made during the merger and only announced Wednesday morning.

Tim Amos, senior vice president and general counsel for the Tennessee Association of Bankers, said Regions has long had a major presence in Nashville, so the concrete impact of Wednesday’s announcement may not be tantamount to big changes in the local banking sphere. Amos considers the company’s public commitment to Middle Tennessee, however, to be a boon for the area.

“A factor in any merger or consolidation is that activities [can] get moved elsewhere,” Amos said. “From a Nashville and Tennessee perspective, the fact that they’re going to commit to have those operations here is great news.”

Nashville’s local banking market is extremely competitive, Amos said, and continued expansion of Regions locally could spell some trouble for the region’s competitors, Amos said.

But the growth of Regions will not necessarily slow down the booming business of locally owned banks. Competition between financial institutions is almost always directed at securing a share of local growth, rather than to persuade customers to move their business elsewhere, and Amos said the high levels of growth throughout Middle Tennessee mean newcomers — as well as expansions — are not likely to slow.

Rusty Stephenson, the current Regions Tennessee president, is retiring at the end of this year. The 43-year-old Herron worked with AmSouth, prior to the merger, since 1988, and lived in Nashville for the last four years. Jim Schmitz, a veteran of the company, will fill Herron’s old position as head of Middle Tennessee operations.

Herron serves on the boards of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts of America, United Way of Middle Tennessee, Cheekwood and the Adventure Science Center.

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