Fifth Third Bank plans to open 31 branches in the Southeast this year as the region continues to display strong growth potential, CEO Tim Spence told analysts Friday.
In the next five years, Fifth Third will open 25 branches in South Carolina alone, after recently opening its 10th in the state, the bank’s chief operating officer, Jamie Leonard, told analysts.
The Cincinnati-based lender already operates more than 320 branches in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and 37 of them opened last year.
“As a portfolio, [the Southeast] branches have continued to outperform our expectations on both household acquisition and deposit growth and should provide a tailwind for several years forward,” Spence said.
To man the growth, Fifth Third plans to boost its Southeast headcount in commercial banking by as much as 15%, according to Bloomberg.
The hires, which will include product specialists in treasury management, capital markets and private banking, will be in addition to the 3,200 people already employed by Fifth Third regionally.
“Our goal, when we talk about what we want to achieve, is to establish about a 50/50 balance between the Southeast and our Midwest markets,” Spence told Bloomberg. “And in order to do that, the Southeast has to get about 50% bigger over the course of the next five years.”
Fifth Third isn’t the only bank with eyes on the Southeast. TD is targeting growth in South Florida, Atlanta and North Carolina; and Bank of America said last summer it was eyeing nine new markets, with three — Louisville, Kentucky; Birmingham, Alabama; and Huntsville, Alabama — in the Southeast. Indiana-based First Financial, too, deepened its presence in the market through M&A in November.
The Pew Charitable Trusts recently reported that Florida and South Carolina were first and second in population growth nationwide in 2022. The U.S. Census Bureau found that two of the 15 fastest-growing cities in 2022 were in Florida, as well.
But, Spence said, Fifth Third is different because it entered the region more than a decade ago.
“I know a lot of people are investing in the Southeast, but it bears reminding that we've been in nearly every one of the markets down there for more than 15 years, and we're not running small [loan-production offices],” he said.
“We have more than 200 client-facing people in those markets across commercial banking and wealth management alone, and then, like, another 1,700 that sit in more than 300 branches. And the brand is seeded in those markets,” Spence said.