One of the local politicians seeking office in Albany made a comment recently that stuck with me.
She was talking about making tough decisions in the business world to survive. One of her strategies: You’ve got to plan your pain to reach your pleasure.”
Great advice, and not just in the business world. Good things can come to those who make smart decisions and are willing to endure hardship.
I recalled those comments when I got a news release this week which said Synovus Financial Corp., parent company to SB&T Bank in Albany and Americus, reported a third quarter profit of $15.7 million after numerous quarters of negative numbers.
Banking in Georgia has been particularly perilous, with the state leading the nation in the number of closed banks. Not all are suffering. Some are doing well, including some in metro Albany, but Georgia overall is doing more than its share depleting FDIC’s funds.
While not at risk of closing, Synovus had stumbled, no doubt. It has been working to rebound from its problem real estate loans.
Synovus, like most businesses, has also gotten leaner in the past year. The staff has been cut and facilities closed. Operations have been streamlined.
“Synovus has been working hard the last couple of years to deal with this,” said Mark Lane, president and CEO of SB&T.
Lane said posting a quarterly profit is significant.
“It’s good news for us,” Lane said. “A quarterly profit was the next step in the journey. You feel better when you start to turn a profit again, but there is still plenty of work to be done.”
“The banking industry as a whole still has some recuperating to be done, but this can be the start of a trend.”
What the banking industry needs most, Lane said, is an improved economy.
“We make our money from generating loans,” he said. “That comes when businesses and consumers feel comfortable enough to make a capital investment in something.”
“There’s still some cautiousness in our community and the southeast as to where the economy will take us,” Lane said.
The rate at which the economy improves is out of his hands, but Lane says there are things good banks can do.
“My main focus is on taking care of our customers and supporting the many causes we assist,” he said. “We’re still committed to that.”
Lane says it’s not accurate to say that banks do not have money to lend. More accurately, they have money, it just might not be as easy to get these days, especially for real estate.
“Banks have money to lend, but we lend it in a more structured environment now,” he said.
“When credit was so easy to get, people were getting 100 percent financing on their homes, their rental houses. When the market turned, they had no equity when it lost value.”
Another positive is that banks, including Synovus, are not spending as much money now cleaning up bad credit.
Despite the challenges, Lane said he is pleased with the quarterly profit.
“I think it’s the sign of good things to come, where banking is fun again,” he said.