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Banking on a strong start
North Metro Bank to open its doors in 2009
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Forsyth County News

When it opens in early 2009, North Metro Bank will start with a clean slate.

The full-service bank will have a strong focus on the commercial and business sector.

"We will start with a fresh balance sheet and a clean book of business," said Rock Hunt, the proposed chief executive officer. "We won't have any problem loans or subprime mortgages to deal with, and we'll be bringing fresh new capital to the marketplace, which it needs."

Hunt said there will also be a focus on the medical community and, based on a turn in the market, possibly a venture into select residential construction opportunities.

With the national economy struggling and bank shares rapidly dropping due to lack of consumer confidence, it may not seem like the best time to start a bank.

"We acknowledge right now, the challenge that we face in the economy," he said. "However this endeavor is a long-term venture, and there is absolutely no better place to do this than Forsyth County.

"We've been through many economic blips, and each time, Forsyth has demonstrated its resiliency."

If initial investments are any indicator, North Metro Bank could open with a strong response, as Hunt said plans are to capitalize the bank at $22 million. The figure will "represent one of the largest capitalizations in the market," he said.

Hunt, who has lived in the county for nearly two decades, previously worked for Regions Bank, as did four members of the proposed and management team, including Donna Wade.

Wade, the proposed executive vice president and senior credit officer, said there were "a lot of changes going on in the larger banks, and we still felt there was a need to serve the clients in Forsyth."

The officers' titles are pending because the FDIC has not officially deemed the organization a bank.

Starting a bank was something Wade said was talked about for years, but the timing wasn't right.

"Forsyth continues to be a strong, dynamic, growing county," she said. "There is still a lot of room in Forsyth and growing counties."

"Ten years from now, we probably expect to have 10 branches open, mainly in Forsyth and Cherokee counties."
Attorney Rafe Banks III is the proposed chairman of North Metro Bank.

The quality of management and quality of organizers were among the reasons Banks said he decided to become part of the organization.

Banks previously served on the advisory board at Regions Bank, but resigned when he became involved with this venture.

"Part of the current economic situation is on restrictional credit, or reduction in available credit, due primarily to the fact that a lot of people made some very foolish loans," he said.

Banks added that he is confident North Metro Bank wouldn't mirror those mistakes.

"It's all in the details isn't it? It just comes down to good management and risk analysis."

Banks called the leadership team diverse, saying it's a good mixture of professionals with different opinions to bring to the table.                            

Forsyth is still a vibrant economy, Banks said. The housing market may be slow, he said, but there is "good commercial activity and good corporate activity," both of which will continue to expand.

"If you're going to do it, this is the place to do it," he said.