November 8. 2019
(Courtesy: JAX Daily Record)
When Ameris Bancorp filed a proxy statement in February for its proposed acquisition of Fidelity Southern Corp., the company stated its holding company would be headquartered in Jacksonville after the merger.
However, when Ameris last week announced its first quarterly earnings report since completing the merger, the company said it moved the headquarters to Fidelity Southern’s home in Atlanta.
Ameris had been officially headquartered in Moultrie, Georgia, but in 2015 it moved its executive offices to the Riverplace Tower on Jacksonville’s Southbank.
When the Fidelity Southern deal was announced, the plan was for the company’s Ameris Bank subsidiary to move its headquarters from Moultrie to Atlanta, but the parent Ameris Bancorp would be based in Jacksonville.
However, plans changed when the merger closed July 1 and Ameris CEO Dennis Zember unexpectedly resigned. Fidelity Southern President Palmer Proctor was appointed to succeed him.
“With Dennis’ departure, our new CEO is in Atlanta,” Chief Financial Officer Nicole Stokes said Friday.
Stokes relocated to Atlanta and now most of the company’s top management is there, so the corporate headquarters formally was moved Oct. 1.
Other than the move of top executives, Ameris will continue to have a significant presence at Riverplace Tower, where the company is putting new signage with a new logo atop the 28-story building, Stokes said.
“We still have the operations we had there before,” she said.
During the company’s quarterly conference call with analysts Friday, Stokes said she just closed on a home in Atlanta.
“I’m learning all about what traffic really means,” she said. “But honestly and seriously, we’re all committed to Ameris and what the future holds for us.”
Ameris reported third-quarter earnings of 98 cents a share, up from 91 cents a year ago and 3 cents better than the consensus forecast of analysts, according to Zacks Investment Research.
During the conference call, Proctor said the integration of Fidelity Southern’s operations into Ameris is going well.
“We’ve actually had better than expected results so far based on our execution and accelerated execution of some of the cost-save strategies,” he said.
Proctor said the two banks had a combined 199 branches in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina when the merger agreement was reached, but it has closed 27 offices.
“We’ve done this very strategically and with very little attrition in terms of our core funding,” he said, referring to loss of customer deposits.
Ameris had 17 branches and Fidelity Bank had six in the Jacksonville market as of June 30, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.
Ameris is planning to lift its new sign by helicopter atop Riverplace Tower on Nov. 3. The sign integrates Fidelity Bank’s lion logo into the Ameris name.
The logo has “been very well received, and we remain deliberate in terms of our efforts to drive that brand in all of our markets,” Proctor said.