Creating the eighth-largest banking company in the Southeast, the merger of CenterState Bank and South State Bank will allow CenterState, which is headquartered in Winter Haven, to provide more products and services to its clients.

“Our merger of equals with South State Bank meant that CenterState Bank was on the forefront in creating one of the largest banking companies in the Southeast,” said Regional President Dale Dreyer. “The banking industry is quickly consolidating, and a larger bank provides shareholders a more efficient operation as our costs are spread out over a larger asset base.”

The increased scale will also allow CenterState to serve clients that used to be too large.

“The cost saves will allow our company to continue to invest in the best technology available for our employees and clients.”

Downtown businessman Ron Clark, who has had business and personal dealings with Dreyer for years and is a CenterState shareholder, called him a “banker’s banker.”

“He is always calm, cool and collected, knows finances inside and out, and is extremely innovative,” Clark said. “I have had many clients as well who have had great experiences with Dale and his bank. I also know that Dale has a good heart and commitment for projects that will make our community a better place to be. Without question, his new role in the combined South State Bank will be good for the bank and for our Lakeland and Polk County community.”

CenterState was cofounded by Ernie Pinner about 20 years ago. Pinner, a past chairman of the Central Florida Development Council (CFDC) retired as a company executive in January 2020. It is listed on Forbes America’s Best Banks 2020 list, ranking 24th with $17 billion in assets. South State also made the list, ranking 47th with $16 billion in assets.

Together, they will have over 300 offices, 4,000 employees and more than1 million customers.

The CFDC asked Dreyer to discuss the merger and what it means.

 

CFDC: What does this merger mean for CenterState? 

Dreyer: South State and CenterState management teams have known each other for a number of years, and both banks have strong cultures that operate under a decentralized model that empowers local bankers to make decisions for their clients. The two banks had no geographic overlap, which allows the combined bank to serve some of the fastest-growing markets — 10 of the 15 largest MSAs in the Southeast in Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Alabama. The bank combines two strong deposit franchises and high-quality loan portfolios with similar credit philosophies. The combined company has identified $80 million in cost saving and will deliver significant earnings per share (EPS accretion), forecasted at over 20% once cost saves are realized.

 

CFDC: What about for its Polk County residents?

Dreyer: Locally, our clients will see improved technology, such as internet banking, digital account opening, mobile banking and an enhanced treasury management experience. Combined, our company can invest more dollars in technology. More customers bank on their phone and tablet and rarely come into a branch. South State has a strong wealth management platform, so we believe this will create opportunities for us to expand our wealth management in our community.

 

CFDC: What about you and your management team, as well as CenterState CEO John Corbett?

Dreyer: No changes for me as the Regional President for Central Florida or my leadership team. John Corbett has been named the CEO of the combined bank. Steve Young of Lakeland has been named the Chief Strategy Officer of the combined bank.

 

CFDC? What changes are coming?

Dreyer: About the second quarter of 2021, our clients will experience a change in our name, signage and branding once all systems are converted into one common core system. Legally, the banks have merged as of June 8, 2020, and our stock continues to be traded on the NASDAQ under the ticker symbol of SSB (South State Bank).

 

CFDC: As some banks are closing, why does this make sense for both your banks?

Dreyer: Banking is changing. If your bank is not evolving and changing, it will be left behind. Consumers and commercial clients want to bank electronically — when it is convenient for them and in a secure environment. As customers go into the bank less frequently, banks invest more dollars on digital platforms and consolidate more branch locations. We will continue to serve our clients via an omnichannel delivery system — traditional brick and mortar as well as digitally. COVID-19 has caused us to adapt and change more rapidly, as well as our clients. I predict banks will continue to consolidate branch locations and that consolidation will accelerate as a result of COVID.

 

CFDC: Why is having the main corporate headquarters in Winter Haven good for that city and Polk County?

Dreyer: Polk County has very few publicly traded companies headquartered here. We strive to give back and invest in all the communities we serve; however, when a company is headquartered in a market, having the support of the CEO and other executive members sometimes allows for greater investment. The company being headquartered here also creates a great deal of jobs – we have a large operations area, IT and many other support areas, including significant underwriting functions based here. This allows us to hire and locate many college graduates or other high-skill jobs to this market.

 

CFDC: What about community involvement?

Dreyer: We encourage our team members to become active in the communities they live and work in. Could you imagine Polk County if Publix was not headquartered here? We are smaller than Publix, but we greatly admire their culture and we strive to have a similar impact on our community.

 

CFDC: What’s the key to success?

Dreyer: The key to this merger will be building a strong common culture. We are off to a great start by reaching our legal close date ahead of schedule despite the effects of COVID. We are excited about the prospects of the future – we are confident this merger will strengthen our combined bank and allow us to continue to improve the customer experience. Big bank capabilities delivered by experienced bankers who are located locally and empowered to make decisions — that is the secret formula in my opinion. There will continue to be challenges facing the economy and the markets we serve. Together, I am confident we will meet these challenges and help our clients achieve their financial dreams.”

For additional information about this topic or how to become a partner with the Central Florida Development Council, please contact Lindsay Zimmerman at lindsay@cfdc.org.