Bank of North Georgia CEO Rob Garcia Discusses Building Communities Through Relationship Banking

Lucy Adams

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

Bank of North Georgia, headquartered in Alpharetta, has 40 branches in 16 counties and offers customers business and personal banking products and financial services. The bank employs 380 professionals in the Atlanta Metro area and, in 1998, became a division of Synovus Bank, one of the largest financial services companies in the Southeast.

“Being part of Synovus gives Bank of North Georgia customers full access to not only our local bankers and investment professionals in the Atlanta region, but all the additional resources, expertise, technology, products and services that come with a larger bank,” says Rob Garcia, CEO and President, Bank of North Georgia. “There is no need or issue we can’t address for a customer, no matter the size or complexity.” Leaders like Garcia are deeply embedded in the communities around Atlanta and know first-hand the local needs of customers.

Despite this optimism, Garcia also acknowledges that the banking industry has obstacles to overcome. From his perspective, Garcia says, “One of the biggest challenges for banks in this economy is maintaining pricing discipline and continuing to manage credit quality in a highly competitive and heavily regulated environment.” Though the economy is picking up, turning it is like turning a cargo ship. It demands patience. It requires bankers to take a long view, realizing they can’t win every deal and that sometimes the best decision for the customer and the bank is to walk away. 

Additionally, consumers and business owners remain more reluctant to spend now than they were before the economic crisis; thus, opportunities for new business are not as abundant. Garcia says, “Even if we see half the opportunities today compared to pre-crisis, we have to work twice as hard to win the business. But our team is doing just that, and we are seeing good results.”

Banks also must balance harnessing the conveniences of the digital age with stringent cybersecurity. The number of transactions within brick and mortar branches is dropping due to technology that enables people to bank anywhere, any time. Because of the sensitivity of the data retained by banks, protecting their servers and protecting customers is a chief concern. Integrating banking services with technology requires vigilance in ensuring transactions and information are accessible by the account holder but not hackable by the criminal. Garcia says, “Synovus and BNG have made significant investments in protecting our customers’ sensitive information. We use a wide variety of security protection and monitoring methods to protect our data and systems.” As technology rapidly evolves, so must online and mobile security.

To offset these banking industry challenges, Garcia and his counterparts within the Synovus family of locally branded banks practice the relationship-based banking model, which allows them flexibility in delivering banking and investment solutions to customers and enables them to make faster decisions.  This model is especially attractive to small business and middle-market customers who need both of those components in a banking relationship.

Bank of North Georgia and Synovus – based in Columbus, Ga. – also invest in communities.  The bank is deeply committed to social corporate responsibility and was recognized last year by the Financial Services Roundtable for its extensive community outreach. “Our company was founded on the concept of servant leadership. It’s part of our culture and an area in which we never waver,” Garcia says.

For the past eight years, Bank of North Georgia’s branches have promoted peanut butter and jelly drives for local food pantries. Last year, the drive collected more than four tons of food.  Giving to United Way has increased year after year, as well. Furthermore, Bank of North Georgia leaders and team members helped Action Ministries adapt its Feed the Hungry program to the Bank of North Georgia model. As a result, the program generated 276,000 meals for individuals and families in need in Georgia.  Across the Synovus footprint, Synovus team members participated in more than 1,600 community projects and contributed more than 12,000 hours of volunteer time during 2014.

As the banking industry progresses, new challenges will present. Garcia believes that to overcome them  he and his cohorts must continue to recognize that banking is about people. When those relationships are nurtured, long-time customers are earned. But loyal customer relationships start from within.  “Our culture is to invest in our people.  When our team is happy, they extend that positive energy and passion for what they do to customers.  Our goal is to have long-time team members taking care of long-time customers,” Garcia says. When banks serve customers rather than push products, trust in banks and the entire industry is strengthened, and because strong banks help build strong communities, everyone wins.