Last week’s news that the parent of United Community Bank will pay more than $500 million for Reliant Bancorp means the Nashville banking market will soon have a new big name to contend with. But United CEO Lynn Harton and Reliant Chairman and CEO DeVan Ard Jr. also have bigger statewide plans.
The pending acquisition of Reliant — it is expected to close early next year — means South Carolina-based United Community will grow its asset base to more than $22 billion and give it a presence in the Southeast’s eight fastest-growing cities. Reliant has a top-10 market presence in Middle Tennessee to go with United’s similar spot in Knoxville. On top of that, a solid chunk of United’s branch network runs from the Atlanta area north and northeast to the Nashville and Greenville markets in the Carolinas — which leaves Chattanooga a something of a hole in the donut.
“Everyone is banking is one degree removed from each other,” Harton told the Post when asked about possible future deals in the southern segment of East Tennessee. “And DeVan has a great reputation with everyone. Having him lead the process on finding additional partners in Tennessee is something I’m very excited about.”
Ard, whose team will be overseeing an integration process forecast to cut about 30 percent of Reliant’s expenses by 2023, said he will be “prudent” in evaluating M&A opportunities. Having the larger war chest of United Community behind him as Tennessee state president will be helpful but he said he will also be looking to sustain Reliant’s loan and deposit growth of recent years.
“We still have a lot to do on the organic growth side,” Ard said. “The focus is on building out the franchise without sacrificing growth.”
Likely to help with that will be United’s capabilities in niche markets where Reliant has not been active. Among those, Ard and Harton said, are multifamily loans — a number of larger deals in that hot space are out of Reliant’s reach these days — as well as working with senior care and renewable energy firms as well as marketing asset-based and Small Business Administration lending products.
Harton, who nearly a decade ago oversaw a brief United foray into the Nashville market via a health care lending group, said he is excited about Reliant’s future fit with his company.
“Half your time, you’re trying to grow the bank. The other half of the time, you’re trying to keep the bank small,” he said of the cultural aspect of his strategy. “This has been a huge recruitment on our part.”