Thursday, July 31, 2014

Report criticizes BofA, others on overdrafts

Bank of America, BB&T and Wells Fargo are among lenders named in a report Thursday that claims to have uncovered deficiencies in how information on overdraft protection is provided to consumers.

The report is based on mystery shopping of the largest banks by deposits in four cities: Chicago, Durham, New York and Oakland, Calif. Four organizations, including Durham-based Reinvestment Partners, released the findings of the investigation conducted in March and April.

In all four cities, the report said, the mystery visits to branches found that banks' explanations of overdraft programs were "highly inconsistent" and often unclear and incorrect. The report also said bank employees frequently did not explain that consumers must consent to being charged for automated teller machine and debit card overdrafts.

The report's findings come as federal regulators are becoming increasingly concerned about overdraft fees and their impacts on consumers.

In a separate report Thursday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said small debit card purchases are leading to expensive overdraft fees four years after federal regulators began requiring banks to get consumers' permission for the coverage.

The bureau said most debit card overdraft fees stem from transactions of $24 or less and are repaid within three days.

A person who overdrew a checking account by $24 and paid it back three days later would essentially be paying an annual percentage rate of 17,000 percent based on a median overdraft fee of $34, the bureau said.

Bank of America did not immediately provide comment on the mystery shopping report. In 2010, the Charlotte bank decided to decline debit card purchases if the account will be overdrawn.

Wells Fargo also did not immediately provide comment. The San Francisco bank does not charge overdraft fees if an account is overdrawn by $5 or less.

BB&T spokesman David White said in an email that BB&T could not comment without having seen the report's findings. The Winston-Salem lender has "a very comprehensive account opening process to ensure our clients fully understand the nature of all fees applicable to their account," White wrote.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Pittenger wins committee OK to study 'obsolete' rule

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Robert Pittenger taking aim at a 1980s-era banking regulation that limits certain withdrawals and transfers from savings accounts won committee approval Tuesday.

The legislation calls for the federal government to study Regulation D, which restricts bank customers to no more than six withdrawals and transfers from their savings account per month. Generally, the limit applies when those transactions are done outside the bank, such as online or over the telephone.

Pittenger, who introduced the bill last year, has called the regulation "truly obsolete" in an era of mobile and online banking.

The House Financial Services Committee on Tuesday approved the legislation, which Pittenger's office said will direct the Government Accountability Office to make "common sense" recommendations on how Congress can modernize the regulation. Pittenger has said credit unions report that their customers hit the six-transfer limit quickly when banking online.

The legislation heads to the full House of Representatives, where Pittenger's office expects a vote before the end of the year.

Pittenger's district includes part of Mecklenburg County.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CommunityOne posts profit in 2nd quarter

Charlotte-based CommunityOne Bancorp on Tuesday reported profit of $2.8 million in the second quarter, an improvement over the $3.2 million loss it posted in the same time period last year.

The better results came as the holding company of CommunityOne Bank reported lower expenses in the quarter compared with the same period a year ago. Costs in the second quarter of last year, such as those associated a merger and foreclosure properties, weighed on the bank's earnings.

The recent second quarter marked the fourth profitable quarter in a row for the lender, which has struggled to become profitable since the financial crisis.

“Overall, I continued to be very pleased with our performance and loan growth is occurring in all lines of business,” CommunityOne President Bob Reid said in a statement.

As the bank seeks to further grow its lending, it is expanding its footprint. Last month, it opened a real estate and commercial loan production office in Raleigh. Also last month, it hired a residential mortgage sales
manager focused on Charlotte and other metro areas in North Carolina.

This month, the lender hired four commercial bankers in Greensboro and two commercial bankers for a real estate and commercial loan production office in Winston-Salem.

The bank, formerly known as FNB United, changed its name to CommunityOne Bancorp last year after it completed the merger of its two banks, Granite Falls-based Bank of Granite and Asheboro-based CommunityOne Bank, in a move to help it return to profitability.

The merger costs affected its second quarter results last year. Expenses stemming from distressed properties also affected second quarter results last year, but the bank continues to see a declined in the amount of those loans on its books.

Like other many other banks, CommunityOne reported lower mortgage-related income in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago. Banks nationwide are reporting a decline in income from their mortgage operations after interest rates that started rising last year lowered demand for mortgages.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Will Warren Buffett change his stake in Wells Fargo?

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway will soon report whether it has changed its stake in Wells Fargo, one of the investment company's "Big Four" investments.

On Friday, Omaha, Neb.-based Berkshire Hathaway is expected to release its results for the second quarter, followed by a securities filing reporting on its stock investments.

Last year, Berkshire Hathaway increased its investment in San Francisco-based Wells Fargo to 9.2 percent, up from 8.7 percent in 2012, according to Berkshire Hathaway's annual letter to shareholders. The letter said the company owned 483.5 million shares of Wells Fargo that were worth almost $22 billion.

Berkshire Hathaway is Wells Fargo's largest institutional shareholder, followed by Vanguard Group. As of the end of the first quarter, Berkshire Hathaway owned 463.5 million shares of Wells Fargo.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Farewell for a year

Nearly three years after joining the Observer's business desk and launching this blog, I'll be taking a hiatus from banking coverage for a new challenge: education.

Our veteran schools reporter, Ann Doss Helms, is taking on a year-long project covering the Affordable Care Act and all of its implications in Charlotte. I've been tasked with filling her shoes while she does so, starting Monday.

It'll be sad to leave the finance beat, which has been ever-changing since the heated days of 2011 when I started. I've loved diving into Charlotte's premier industry while covering everything from debit card fees to the mortgage finance boom to the ecosystem of boutique investment banks in Charlotte.

The blog won't be going away and the beat remains in good hands. Deon Roberts will remain covering banking and all things finance in Charlotte.

Meanwhile, you'll be able to find me on our schools blog. Please keep in touch.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yadkin Financial profit narrows in 2nd quarter

Raleigh-based Yadkin Financial Corp. on Wednesday reported lower second-quarter profit from a year ago as it recorded merger-related expenses and its mortgage business slumped.

The parent company of Yadkin Bank posted profit of $3.8 million, down from $4.2 million in the same period last year.

Expenses connected to its merger with Raleigh-based VantageSouth Bancshares weighed on earnings. The merger was completed earlier this month, making Yadkin the largest community bank headquartered in the state.

During the quarter, Yadkin reported its mortgage banking income fell 69.8 percent from a year ago to $769,000. The drop came as demand to refinance home loans nationwide has waned since interest rates began rising last year.

"2014 has been an eventful year for the company," Scott Custer, Yadkin president, said in a statement.

"The combination of two of North Carolina's largest community banks provides Yadkin with the growth opportunities, scale and footprint to continue to deliver a best-in-class customer experience, offer competitive financial services and solutions, provide a rewarding experience for our teammates and generate top-tier financial performance for our shareholders."

Yadkin Bank has 74 branches across the Carolinas, including in the Charlotte region.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Capitala Finance reports $22.6M in 2nd quarter investments

Capitala Finance Corp., a SouthPark-based company that invests in other businesses, reported Tuesday that it made about $22.6 million new investments in the second quarter.

Also during the quarter, the company completed a public offering of notes that generated $113 million in gross proceeds and priced $100 million in notes that will be used to continue its investments.

So far in the third quarter, the company has made about $26.5 million in new investments.

Capitala went public last year. It makes debt and equity investments in small and lower-middle-market companies.

The company will hold a second-quarter conference call Aug. 13.

Former N.C. banking commissioner carving out new career

Former North Carolina banking commissioner Joseph Smith is carving out a new career for himself overseeing major legal settlements in the financial industry.

Smith has been in the public eye for the past two years as monitor of a $25 billion national mortgage settlement entered into between state attorneys general and Bank of America, Wells Fargo and three other major banks. It resolved investigations into shoddy mortgage servicing practices, including "robosigning," or mass production and signatures of foreclosure documents without being read. Smith has produced periodic reports on how well the banks were offering the consumer relief they were required to do and how well they were complying with the 300-odd new rules the settlement brought with it.

Now Smith is in charge of overseeing a $13 billion deal with JPMorgan Chase and the U.S. Justice Department over bad mortgage bonds. His first report, issued Tuesday, breaks down what Chase is required to do and how Smith will make sure it's carried out.

And there could be more settlements for Smith to oversee. He's launched a website,, that touts that Smith "specializes in overseeing complex financial services settlements through a rigorous, fair and effective process." Records indicate the website was registered in February.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Housing official: Foreclosures still big threat to Charlotte

Bob Kucab
On Thursday, a RealtyTrac report showed foreclosure rates in Charlotte and elsewhere continue to fall to levels not seen since before the housing bubble burst.

Time to pop open the champagne?

Not yet, says Bob Kucab, executive director at the N.C. Housing Finance Agency.

As Kucab pointed out to me Friday, the threat of lenders foreclosing on homes in Charlotte and across the state remains elevated for a variety of reasons.

“It’s still taking people longer to find jobs, and there still are people taking jobs that pay less than the job that they left,” he said.

“I think the economy has improved, but it’s been slow. And the jobs available, while they’re there, are sometimes not matching up with the needs of households.”

In Mecklenburg County, he said, many people remain at risk of losing their homes because of high unemployment.

In May, the most recent month for which there is data, the county’s unemployment rate was 6.7 percent. That was above the national rate, 6.3 percent, for the same month.

Kucab said it might take another two years before foreclosure filings in North Carolina drop to levels of 2000, a year that saw about 20,500 initial foreclosure notices in the state. This year, the state is on pace to record roughly 35,000 filings, he said.

Highlighting the ongoing need for foreclosure assistance in the state, this week the N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund announced an expansion of the program.

The program is designed to help people who are having trouble paying their mortgages because of a hardship, such as losing a job.

Through the expansion, the program, which was already available to veterans enrolled in certain programs approved by the The Department of Veterans Affairs, is now open to veterans who are receiving GI Bill benefits and obtaining education or job training.

The N.C. Foreclosure Prevention Fund, funded through the U.S. government's financial crisis-era bailout program, has prevented about 17,000 homes statewide from going into foreclosure, according to the finance agency.

Kucab, whose nonprofit agency administers the fund, said the program has capacity to help another 4,000 or so homeowners by the time the program sunsets in 2017. He said the foreclosure threat will likely still be looming even then.

“There will probably be need remaining at the end of the program, and that’s a sad fact.”

Those interested in seeking assistance from the program can call (888) 623-8631 or go to

NewBridge launches middle-market group in Charlotte

NewBridge Bank said Friday it has launched a middle-market group in Charlotte to serve companies that generate $25 million to $250 million in annual revenue as the bank expands its commercial banking capabilities.

The Greensboro-based community bank said middle-market banking, its newest line of business, will be focused on companies across the Carolinas.

NewBridge CEO Pressley Ridgill said in a statement that his bank sees an opportunity at a time when the middle-market sector is being under-served as a result of bank consolidations and large, national banks' changing strategies.

The new banking group will be made of six people: five in Charlotte and one in a Greenville, S.C., office.

In Charlotte, Michael McMahan, formerly of Bank of America, will lead a team of bankers that have experience at Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

Thomas DeMint, who has worked for Bank of America and Wachovia, will work in the Greenville office.

NewBridge said it plans to expand the middle-market banking team in the region where the bank is headquartered as well as in the Triangle.

NewBridge has roughly $2.4 billion in assets and 40 branches in North Carolina.

The hiring of the middle-market team comes after the bank announced in April an expected 5 percent workforce reduction as it overhauls how it staffs its branches.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Uwharrie Capital Corp profit rises

Albemarle-based Uwharrie Capital Corp. said Wednesday it earned $596,000 in the second quarter, up 282 percent from the same time period a year ago when the company recorded a $680,000 charge.

The company, which operates community bank subsidiary Uwharrie Bank, said the one-time charge stemmed from an updated appraisal for a foreclosed property. That dragged down profit to $156,000.

Uwharrie has total assets of $511 million, down from the $529.7 million it reported a year ago.

Like other banks, Uwharrie has struggled to boost its lending at a time of slow loan growth industrywide. In a June 25 letter to shareholders, Uwharrie said that while economic conditions are showing signs of improvement, the lender's biggest challenge is finding new sources of revenue in a recovering economy.

On Thursday, Uwharrie declared a 2 percent dividend to be paid to shareholders of its common stock on Aug. 15.

“Having weathered the economic storm of the last few years, we are pleased to share this tangible evidence of the continued growth and development of our company," Uwharrie President Roger Dick said in a statement. "Our earnings, capital position and asset quality continue to improve."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What to watch for in BofA's earnings

On Wednesday, Bank of America will become the fourth of the largest U.S. banks to report second-quarter earnings. Its three big-bank peers -- JPMorgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo -- have all posted a profit in the quarter. Analysts are expecting Bank of America to also report a profit, even as legal challenges continue to loom over the Charlotte-based bank's head.

Here are five things worth watching for:

1. Settlement announcement?

On Monday, Citigroup announced it had reached a $7 billion settlement with the government over the sale of securities tied to risky mortgages. Bank of America is also negotiating with the Justice Department over a potential settlement to resolve similar probes. Talks between the bank and Justice Department have broken down because the parties can't agree on the terms of the settlement, a source familiar with the matter told the Observer. So, it seems unlikely the bank will announce a deal tomorrow -- but that won't stop analysts from asking the bank about the status of the negotiations during an earnings conference call Wednesday morning.

2. The dividend

Earlier this year, the bank surprised investors when it announced that it was suspending plans to raise its quarterly dividend from 1 cent to 5 cents. The bank had to cancel those plans after realizing it had been incorrectly accounting for a type of debt inherited in its 2009 Merrill Lynch acquisition. The Federal Reserve has to approve the bank's resubmitted plan to return capital to shareholders. But it remains unclear whether the bank will again ask to raise the dividend to 5 cents. Analysts will likely ask about plans for the dividend during the conference call.

3. All eyes on legal expenses

Analysts will be paying close attention to how much money the bank sets aside for future legal costs. During the first quarter, the bank reported its first quarterly loss in three years as it boosted its legal reserves by $2.4 billion, an amount that surprised analysts. At the time, the bank said the additional reserves were for a previously disclosed mortgage-related issue, but it offered few additional details.

4. Slashing costs

Bank of America, like other big banks, has been in a cost-cutting mode as the industry copes with weak revenue growth and increased regulations. In the first quarter, the bank reported that its employment fell to 238,560, down 9 percent, or 24,252 full-time equivalents, from a year ago. Some of the cuts were employees who handled troubled home loans Bank of America acquired when it bought Countrywide Financial Corp. in 2008. The bank has shrunk the number of troubled loans on its books, thereby reducing the need for those employees. Just last month, the bank announced plans to lay off 540 Charlotte employees who worked with troubled mortgages. It was the largest single big-bank layoff in Charlotte since 2009.

5. Economic indicators

Like other major banks, Bank of America is a barometer for the overall economy. Second-quarter earnings reports from other big banks show they are still struggling to increase revenue. Wells Fargo, for example, reported last week that the spring housing market has not lived up to expectations and revenue in its community banking segment fell $336 million, or 3 percent, from a year ago, primarily because of lower mortgage banking revenue. And, on Tuesday, JPMorgan Chase & Co. reported its fixed-income trading revenue and equity-trading revenue were both down from a year ago.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five takeaways from Wells Fargo's earnings

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo reported second-quarter results Friday, kicking off earnings season for major banks. Here's a look at some takeaways from the bank's conference call with analysts:

1. Earnings streak over

Wells Fargo had posted an increase in earnings per share from one quarter to the next for 17 quarters in a row. But that streak came to an end Friday, as the bank reported profit of $1.01 per share, down from $1.05 in the first quarter. The $1.01 per share met analysts’ expectations, though.

2. Housing market disappoints

Chief Financial Officer John Shrewsberry commented earlier this year that the spring housing market has not lived up to expectations. Reiterating that sentiment Friday, he described the spring housing market as "less than we originally imagined.” Wells Fargo, the largest U.S. mortgage lender, is often seen as a bellwether for the housing market. The bank's revenues have taken a hit as rising interest rates have lowered demand for homeowners to refinance their mortgages. In the second quarter, revenue in its community banking segment fell $336 million, or 3 percent, from a year ago, primarily because of lower mortgage banking revenue.

3. Risky auto lending?

Wells Fargo, the largest U.S. auto lender, a title it took from Ally Financial, has been pushing to increase its auto lending. Wells Fargo made $5.5 billion more auto loans in the second quarter from the same period a year ago. But analysts are wondering whether Wells Fargo might be becoming too risky in its lending practices as it tries to grow those loans. It's a concern regulators have also voiced about the auto lending industry in general lately. Last month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency noted in a report that there are "loosening underwriting standards" and "increased layering of risk" in the indirect auto lending industry.

"Are you taking too much risk in an area such as auto lending where loans are up 10 percent year over year?" one analyst on the call asked Wells Fargo executives Friday.

"I don’t think we are taking inappropriate risk," John Stumpf, the bank's CEO, replied.

4. Consumers more optimistic

Wells Fargo, because it's a mega-bank and serves many consumers, is viewed as somewhat of a barometer for the health of the broader economy. As consumers and businesses remain cautious about borrowing, Wells Fargo, like other banks, has struggled to grow revenues. The bank's revenue in the second quarter was down by $300 million from a year ago, in part as demand to refinance home loans fell. But Stumpf said Friday he's seeing positive economic signs.

"As I'm out talking with customers and talking with our team, there is ... more optimism," he said. "We are having more discussions with more customers about buying homes, buying autos, investing in infrastructure if you are a business, buying something." He said certain sectors of the economy "are doing very well."

5. More cost-cutting

Slashing costs has been a theme at banks big and small since the financial crisis, as they cope with sluggish revenue growth. To help lower overhead, banks have trimmed personnel and branches. In the second quarter, Wells Fargo cut its expenses from a year ago. Its interest expense fell by $75 million, and its noninterest expense, which includes salaries, fell by $61 million. The bank shed 10,800 employees from a year ago, bringing the figure down to 263,500 full-time equivalents.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Charlotte job growth still outpacing the nation

Charlotte is adding jobs at a faster clip than the nation as a whole in 2014, a new report from PNC economist Gus Faucher says.

The city's exposure to industries like finance, homebuilding and transportation contributed to a steeper economic decline during the recession, but industries like those are now fueling the rebound, the report says. The unemployment rate in the Charlotte metropolitan area hit 12.3 percent in early 2010. It's since fallen to 6.3 percent.

The PNC report predicts above-average employment gains for the next several years as financial markets continue to grow, Charlotte's population expands and business costs remain low.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Report: BofA again seeking 5-cent dividend

Bank of America is seeking Federal Reserve approval to raise its quarterly common dividend to 5 cents a share after suspending plans to increase it to that level following the discovery it miscalculated its capital ratios, The Wall Street Journal reported late Wednesday, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Charlotte-based bank had planned to increase the dividend from 1 cent and buy back $4 billion in common stock, a plan the Fed approved earlier this year.

But the bank had to suspend those plans after it learned it had incorrectly accounted for a type of debt inherited in its 2009 Merrill Lynch acquisition.

The bank's dividend has been at 1 cent a quarter since the financial crisis. Following the crisis, the nation's largest banks must receive Federal Reserve approval before raising dividends or buying back stocks.

Bank of America spokesmen could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Fed has until August to decide on Bank of America's resubmitted capital plan.

Will BofA settlement talks heat up?

Citigroup could soon reach a $7 billion deal with the Justice Department to resolve a civil investigation involving mortgage-backed securities, according to various news reports this week that cite people familiar with the matter.

For Bank of America, could a Citigroup deal result in increased efforts to resolve similar probes by federal authorities into the Charlotte-based bank?

Who knows? But a New York Times story suggests that it will.

"Now, with the Citigroup matter almost settled, the talks between the government and Bank of America will most likely heat up," the paper reported Tuesday, citing people briefed on the matter.

Bank of America and the Justice Department have disagreed over how much the bank would pay in cash versus consumer relief as part of any settlement, a source familiar with the negotiations told the Observer last month. The settlement would resolve probes into the sale to investors of securities backed by home loans that soured and contributed to the financial crisis.

In an effort to resolve the matter, the bank requested for CEO Brian Moynihan to meet with the U.S. attorney general, the source told the Observer last month.

The source said the accord with Bank of America would be a “global” settlement to resolve other outstanding mortgage-related civil probes, including a lawsuit filed last year by U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins over "prime" mortgages.

But with the bank and federal authorities failing to reach an agreement over the settlement's terms, the Justice Department has been moving forward with plans to file a civil lawsuit against the bank, according to the source.

Settling with the Justice Department would be a major step for the bank in resolving issues still weighing on it since the financial crisis. In May, Moynihan indicated the settlement would put the largest of the bank’s remaining crisis-era legal challenges behind it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Aquesta Bank adds two to its board

Cornelius-based Aquesta Bank has added two new members to its board of directors.

The first is David Pickens, CEO and majority owner of HVAC supplier PSI Control Solutions.  He lives in Cornelius.

The second is Dr. Paul Jaszewski, who has been with Southeast Anesthesiology Consultants at Carolinas Medical Center since 1989. He also lives in Cornelius.

Aquesta Bank primarily serves small and mid-sized businesses and professionals in the Lake Norman area.

Monday, July 7, 2014

BrandMortgage opens Charlotte office

BrandMortgage, based in Lawrenceville, Ga., said Monday it has opened its first office in Charlotte, in the Toringdon office park.

The south Charlotte office, at 3440 Toringdon Way, opened last month, according to a spokeswoman.

The office has three employees. Rebecca Madej, vice president and North Carolina state production manager, will lead the Charlotte team.

BrandMortgage has offices in 10 Southern states, according to its website.

It is a subsidiary of Brand Banking Co., part of bank holding company Brand Group Holdings.

Yadkin Financial, VantageSouth complete merger

Yadkin Financial Corp. said Monday that it has completed its merger with VantageSouth Bancshares, forming North Carolina's largest community bank.

The $299 million stock deal creates a bank with about $4 billion in assets, ranking it seventh in deposits in North Carolina, behind SunTrust at No. 6.

Elkin-based Yadkin Financial Corp., parent company of Yadkin Bank, will keep its name. The merged bank holding company will be headquartered in Raleigh, where VantageSouth is based.

Yadkin Bank and VantageSouth Bank have locations in the Charlotte metropolitan area, according to federal data. The combined company will have 74 full-service locations in the Carolinas, according to a press release Monday.

"This is an exciting moment in Yadkin's history. Our combined franchise is well-positioned to continue providing convenience for our customers while retaining local leadership and a community bank philosophy. We believe with this merger that Yadkin's future is positioned for continued stability and growth," Joe Towell, executive chairman of Yadkin Financial Corp., said in a statement.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

SunTrust agrees to $320M settlement over mortgage modifications

Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks has agreed to a settlement of up to $320 million with federal authorities over the bank's handling of home loans under a federal mortgage-assistance program, according to a deal announced Thursday.

The settlement resolves claims involving the Home Affordable Modification Program, launched in response to the housing crisis to reduce monthly mortgage payments for struggling borrowers and prevent foreclosure. It is part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, also known as the federal bailout.

Federal authorities began investigating SunTrust following complaints that it misled homeowners who sought assistance under HAMP from SunTrust, according to securities filings.

According to the complaints, SunTrust made "misrepresentations and omissions" to homeowners, such as on how long SunTrust would take to decide whether borrowers qualified for HAMP.

"We recognize that there were deficiencies in our administration of HAMP during the recession," Jerome Lienhard, president of SunTrust Mortgage, said in a statement, adding that the lender has made improvements to its internal processes.

SunTrust has agreed to provide up to a maximum of $274 million in consumer remediation, $20 million for housing counseling for homeowners, $10 million in restitution to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a cash payment of $16 million to the U.S. Treasury.

The settlement will result in a $204 million pre-tax charge that will affect SunTrust's second-quarter results.

SunTrust is the fifth-largest bank by deposits in the Charlotte metropolitan area.

Online financial advisory firm launching in Charlotte

TradeKing, one of the country's largest online brokerages, is launching an online financial advisory firm out of its Charlotte offices.

Known as TradeKing Advisors, the venture will help investors with at least $10,000 in assets craft a portfolio based on their risk tolerance and timeframe. Fees will range from 0.75 percent of assets for more passive portfolios to 1 percent of assets for portfolios that are more responsive. Investors with $250,000 or more will pay a reduced rate.

TradeKing Advisors will be the latest in a burgeoning industry as mobile-savvy millenials amass investable assets. Firms like Betterment and Wealthfront have made waves as they've entered the registered investment advisory industry.  They're viewed as potentially lower cost and more convenient than your traditional wealth manager in an office.

"We’re seeing some people who need help," said Rich Hagen, the TradeKing chief operating officer who will lead the new venture. "They don’t have the money to get the attention of a financial advisor or it’s too costly."

TradeKing was launched in 2005 in south Florida, but moved some operations to Ballantyne in 2007. It has continued to add in Charlotte as the company has grown. Hagen said Charlotte has the largest concentration of people with Series 7 certifications outside New York, making the area attractive. Stockbrokers are required to take the Series 7 exam.

TradeKing Advisors is in a soft-launch for employees, friends and family. By the end of July, the company plans to make the service available to TradeKing customers before a full roll-out around September.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

LendingTree reports growing difference in mortgage rates

People shopping for a home loan in recent months saw increasing difference in the interest rates offered by lenders.

That's according to a report released Wednesday by Charlotte-based LendingTree, known for its website that allows consumers to comparison-shop for mortgages.

The report shows that, from March to May, the average difference between interest rates offered for a 30-year, fixed-rate loan has been on the rise.

In March, the average difference was 0.33 percent. It climbed to about 0.34 percent in April and then to 0.365 percent in May.

As LendingTree points out, rates offered to borrowers can vary widely from one lender to the next. Doug Lebda, CEO of LendingTree, says in a press release that one reason lenders might cut rates is to attract business.

To be sure, mortgage lenders are looking for more business thanks to demand to refinance loans being much lower than this time last year. Refinancing activity began falling after interest rates starting rising around the middle of last year.

CommunityOne names commercial banking team

Charlotte-based CommunityOne Bancorp on Wednesday said it has a new team of commercial bankers to serve the Triad.

The bankers are Joe DePasquale, Eric Morrison and Todd Rangel, all of whom were most recently with NewBridge Bank, according to CommunityOne Bancorp, parent company of CommunityOne Bank.

DePasquale will be responsible for increasing awareness of the CommunityOne brand and growing its commercial banking presence in central North Carolina.

Morrison will be market president for Winston-Salem, where he will establish an office.

Rangel will serve as Greensboro market president.

DePasquale and Rangel will be based in Greensboro.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

South State Bank name is here

The largest bank headquartered in South Carolina now has a new name.

The bank formerly operating as SCBT (or NCBT in North Carolina) has made the switch to South State Bank.

The switch comes four months after South Carolina Bank & Trust's holding company, First Financial Holdings, announced it would bring all of its branches under one name.

South State Bank has three locations in Charlotte: On Providence Road, Sharon Amity Road and Morrison Boulevard.

Former BofA treasurer named to CommunityOne chairmanship

Charlotte-based Communityone Bancorp has named former Bank of America treasurer J. Chandler Martin to be its new board chairman after the executive previously in the role left for a bank in New York.

Austin A. Adams is leaving to become chairman of First Niagara Financial Group, a $38 billion bank in Buffalo. Adams is a former First Union chief information officer who ultimately took a similar role at JPMorgan Chase before retiring in 2006.

He was part of the group of former First Union and Bank of America executives that first sought a bank charter before becoming part of the new management team at CommunityOne during a 2011 recapitalization. 

Banking laws prevent people from serving on two bank boards at a time.

Martin, 63, has been on the CommunityOne board since that 2011 shakeup. He retired as treasurer at Bank of America in 2008, before returning for several months to help the bank integrate risk management as it acquired Merrill Lynch.