The city’s largest bank now has a new president, and it’s a very familiar name.
Synovus Financial Corp. said Thursday William R. “Billy” Blanchard, who began his career with the company in 1995, has been promoted to president of Columbus Bank and Trust Co., a major employer with nearly 600 people on its payroll.
Steve Melton, longtime president and chief executive officer of CB&T, isn’t going anywhere, however. He remains CEO of CB&T. He also keeps the title of Synovus regional CEO, responsible for CB&T and Synovus affiliate banks in Phenix City and the Georgia cities of LaGrange and Warner Robins.
Synovus, headquartered in Columbus, also said Jimmy Yancey retains chairmanship of CB&T’s board of directors.
While Melton remains in the CB&T picture as Blanchard runs day-to-day operations, it’s clear the new bank president is being put in a position for growing responsibility within Synovus.
“Billy represents the next generation of leadership in our company and in our community,” Melton said in a statement issued by Synovus. “He is a passionate and driven leader. Now is his time.”
Blanchard, 38, is the son of retired Synovus Chairman and CEO James H. Blanchard, who also served as president of CB&T from 1971 to 1983. His grandfather, James W. Blanchard, was president of the bank from 1957 to 1969.
“My grandfather’s and my dad’s portraits are on our wall in our boardroom, and I’ve been sitting under their watchful eyes for 15 years,” Blanchard said Thursday afternoon. “My grandfather died two years before I was born. I never knew him. So what I do know of him I know because I have worked at the bank and met people who knew him, and just to be able to follow him and to follow my dad is very special. It’s a real honor.”
The younger Blanchard started as a management associate with the local bank, which commands 51 percent of the Columbus bank market with $2.8 billion in deposits, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Wachovia and SunTrust are second and third in the market, with 15 percent and nearly 9 percent shares respectively.
Blanchard has held several jobs with CB&T, including credit analyst, business development officer and commercial lender. His most recent position was executive vice president of retail banking. Blanchard becomes the 10th president in the history of Columbus Bank and Trust, which dates to 1888.
He takes the reins of CB&T with the U.S. banking sector grappling with a financial crisis generated by real estate loan losses and a recession.
During conversations in recent days leading up to his promotion, Blanchard said his father gave him some pretty simple advice.
“What he’s trying to do is encourage me to stay connected to people in the bank, stay available, stay visible and stay positive and energetic,” Blanchard said. “There are lots of things going on in the banking world these days. You deal with problems all the time and you can get the wrong perspective, and you can get down and start struggling. And he’s just like, look, you gotta stay positive, you gotta stay visible and you gotta continue to show people and tell people where you’re going.”
Although there is no timeline yet, Blanchard said the natural progression of assuming president of CB&T will lead to his taking the CEO role as well.
For now, however, he’s content with having Melton around to lean on for advice and counsel. Melton was president of the bank for 13 years.
“I think it’s actually a great situation,” Blanchard said. “It does provide for more continuity and an easier transition rather than he just picking up, moving out and being gone.”