First National expands into mortgages as others walk away

Acquires six locations from BofA

First National Corporation (FXNC), the holding company for First Bank, continues to break into an industry where a lot of others are pulling away by buying up bank branches and opening up mortgage divisions.

In July, the company announced the launch of its new mortgage division, “First Mortgage” in Staunton, Virginia, which would be led by George Ballew, who joined First Bank as the CEO of the division.

At the time, the bank was strategically expanding into the Staunton market, with First Mortgage as a natural extension of the company’s core banking franchise.

This expansion was then followed with the opening of a loan production office in Harrisonburg, Virginia, in November that would offer commercial and mortgage lending services.

"This new office represents a great strategic opportunity for our company, as we expand operations southward in the Shenandoah Valley. We look forward to serving the financial needs of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County," said Dennis Dysart, senior executive vice president and chief operating officer, at the time of the branch opening.

Fast forward a little and the bank just announced on Wednesday that it signed an agreement to acquire the branch banking operations of six locations in the Shenandoah Valley and central Virginia regions from Bank of America (BAC).

The acquired branches in the Shenandoah Valley region are located in Woodstock, Elkton, Staunton and Waynesboro, and the acquired branches in the central Virginia region are located in Dillwyn and Farmville.

As a result, the transaction will add an estimated $308 million of deposits to the balance sheet of First Bank, along with adding all current employees of the acquired branches.

"We are delighted to announce the expansion of our banking franchise into Virginia markets that complement our recent expansion initiatives and that we believe embrace First Bank's philosophy that People Matter," said Scott Harvard, President and CEO. "This transaction provides the opportunity to expand our team with the addition of experienced and talented associates while building scale and efficiencies in an expanded geographic footprint across several contiguous counties. We look forward to serving the needs of our new customers and communities for years to come."

Meanwhile, others in the industry are choosing to go in a different direction. In December, Impac Mortgage Holdings (IMH) announced that it is planning to sell its active "brick and mortar" retail lending branches and lay off 180 employees in an effort to centralize lending operations and focus instead on its online lending operation.

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