Charlotte, NC has Financial Services Staying Power

Though the banking sector nationally has undergone a shakeout, Charlotte USA remains a strong and growing financial services industry leader.

Bill Lewis
On Friday, August 5, 2011 - 00:44
Charlotte, NC

Though the banking sector nationally has undergone a shakeout, Charlotte USA remains a strong and growing financial services industry leader. Bank of America Corp. makes its home there and Wells Fargo & Co. and Ally Bank have major operations in the region.

Other financial services companies such as Fifth Third Bancorp, Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America and Citco Fund Services – and those serving the industry such as Aon Hewitt, Fiserv and Capgemini Group – are also growing in the region and taking advantage of the opportunities it offers. Overall, the sector employs more than 67,000 people in the region, which remains the nation's second-largest banking center with more than $1 trillion in assets held.

New Players Expanding

Cincinnati-based Fifth Third came to Charlotte in 2008, when it bought the $5 billion-asset First Charter Corp. "This was an opportunity to get into a strong growth market," says Bob James, president and chief executive officer of Fifth Third Bank in North Carolina. "North Carolina ranks No. 1 in projected population growth over the next five years. Charlotte in particular is attracting a young, very educated workforce." Moreover, the region has above-average household income and a large number of middle-market companies.

"The market is fertile what for what we do well, which is middle-market lending," James says.

The presence of major companies is helping the region in other ways, too. For a week in May, Fifth Third employees volunteered more than 800 hours to various nonprofits throughout the community. The bank also employs an "eBus" to give low- and moderate-income neighborhoods access to online banking, free credit reports and mortgage counseling. In 2010, Fifth Third relocated its North Carolina headquarters to Tryon Street in the heart of the region's financial services district, across from Bank of America and Wells. Aon Hewitt, the human resources outsourcing and consulting firm, is in the midst of adding more than 450 positions in the region.

"Our Charlotte office is one of Aon Hewitt's global delivery centers," says Dave Swift, vice president of HR BPO with Aon Hewitt. "From this center, we deliver a variety of HR services for large local and multinational clients and their employees. Charlotte and Aon Hewitt are the perfect match. We know that as we continue to grow, we will be able to tap into the diverse, skilled talent pool in the area for high-quality candidates."

Citco Fund Services opened its first North Carolina office in Charlotte in 2010 and will create nearly 260 jobs by 2015. Beyond that, the region's concentration of financial services providers is drawing investment from companies that serve the sector. Fortune 500 company Fiserv,  a technology provider to banks, credit unions and financial institutions, selected Catawba County for a customer support and client services center that will eventually employ more than 400 people. And technology and consulting firm Capgemini's U.S. subsidiary Capgemini Group plans to invest $4.2 million to open a Charlotte office and hire 550 employees over the next three years to serve banking, insurance and capital-markets clients.

Verian Technologies is making a major investment in Lancaster County, S.C. The firm, a leading producer of purchase-to-pay automation solutions for business, is building a 25,000-square-foot headquarters in Indian Land. The 56-employee company began in 1997 developing software that helped medical and hospital networks with their procurement and inventory process. The company's software helps companies monitor and track their purchases, invoices, assets, reimbursements and costs, and its clients include Boeing, Allstate Insurance, PETCO and GNC.

Bank of America

Bank of America has called Charlotte home for more than 130 years.

“The bank has grown up here,” says Charles Bowman, North Carolina and Charlotte market president. “We started here as American Commercial Bank prior to NCNB – North Carolina National Bank – and we’ve grown as the region has grown.”

The financial services giant continues to make its home in the region because of the excellent quality of services, including health care, education and transportation assets such as light rail and an accessible airport with numerous direct flights, Bowman adds. Bank of America’s employees are active in the community and donated 135,000 volunteer hours in 2010. Moreover, the company has been part of virtually every major public-private development initiative – from Bank of America Stadium, to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and now, the Levine Center for the Arts, a development of several museums in Uptown Charlotte.    


Bill Lewis is an award-winning business journalist whose work has appeared in publications across the United States.