The pied Baker
In 1998, Tom Baker made a commercial touting Charlottesville’s Guaranty Bank, of which he was president. In a cozy living room setting, Baker said community was as important to him as shareholders.
Flash forward to 2002. Community is still important to Baker, but he’s no longer with Guaranty, and he refuses to discuss his departure from the bank last year. Baker must not be too radioactive. He’s opened a new bank in town, and four of its seven employees have come from– you guessed it– Guaranty.
Southern Financial Bank opened without the hoopla of other home-grown financial institutions such as Albemarle First, Virginia National, or the UVA Community Credit Union. Yet long before its grand opening on Thursday, April 11, Southern Financial had already garnered such heavy-hitter customers as Glenmore Associates and Robert Hauser Homes.
Based in Warrenton, Southern Financial is the fifth largest bank headquartered in Virginia, and the new Charlottesville branch is number 21. Its assets of $785 million dwarf Guaranty’s $225 million.
“Southern Financial is not a real large bank, but it’s not a real small bank, either, so we can make larger loans,” explains Baker.
Baker, now senior vice president in charge of commercial loans, anticipates making $100 million in loans this year. “We’ll lend up to $7 million,” he says. “None of the local banks can make loans that size.”
And making the loans from Charlottesville rather than Richmond or Charlotte is a big advantage to customers like Bob Hauser.
“The large banks we deal with are not always quite so flexible,” he says. “Southern Financial is run by two individuals we’ve met. If a loan doesn’t fit the cookie-cutter, they can still underwrite it.”
That so many of Southern Financial’s employees came from Guaranty adds to Hauser’s comfort level. “Tom has helped fill a void here,” he says.
While Baker is focusing on commercial loans, he’s also interested in individual accounts. And from his corner location on Market and Third Street NE, he’s got everything to service those accounts– except for a drive-up window.