Chris Burnett has been a banker since 1980. On June 4, the new Bank of Sandy Springs will open with Burnett heading up the local operation, which is a division of Midtown Bank. Reporter Newspapers asked him a few questions on the state of community banks and his new institution. Here are his answers.
Q. Why start a new bank now?
A. It is an exciting time to live and work in Sandy Springs! With the City Center development and a number of new residential projects underway, complimented by a healthy business climate and a strong Perimeter office market, we believe there is a real need for a local bank that is financially strong and managed by community leaders who are keenly focused on meeting the financial needs of our residents and business owners.
For this reason, we formed Bank of Sandy Springs as a division of Midtown Bank to leverage the stability and financial strength of Midtown’s charter while focusing specifically on serving the Sandy Springs market.
Q. What’s the advantage of having “Sandy Springs” in your name?
A. Sandy Springs has been our family’s home for many years and we love this community. Our town has an innovative governmental structure supported by strong political and business leaders, and a genuine sense of civic pride. The name “Bank of Sandy Springs” speaks directly to our primary business mission, which is to be the bank for the Sandy Springs community.
Q. There were many bank failures recorded in Georgia during the fallout from the “Great Recession.” Have things settled down? What has changed?
A. Fortunately, the market is recovering and bank closures have dropped significantly in the past year, so we do see the market settling down. In terms of changes, it will likely be years before many, if any, new bank charters are granted in Georgia, meaning that there will be fewer community banks in the future.
Going forward, we see community banks selling or consolidating due to the rising cost of regulation and compliance.
That is one of the reasons we recently entered into a merger of equals agreement with First Landmark Bank in Marietta. By consolidating Bank of Sandy Springs, Midtown Bank and First Landmark under one charter, we double our asset size and lending capacity while achieving the economies of scale needed to effectively compete in this market.