If one group of people stands to gain from First Citizens BancShares purchase of California’s Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), it would be the North Carolina family that has been responsible for its long-standing record of growth.
The Holding siblings – First Citizens’ chair and chief executive Frank Holding Jr and his sisters Carson Brice, Clair Bristow, Hope Bryant, and Olivia Holding – collectively own 20% of the banking firm’s stock as well as nearly 50% in corporate voting power. That’s a stake worth around $2.7 billion, and the finalization of First Citizens’ purchase of SVB led to stock gains of around 54% last week.
But who exactly are the Holdings, and what gave them the ability – as well as the chutzpah – to buy out the beleaguered California bank?
Over a Century of Banking Prowess
Because both the Holdings and First Citizens have had such a low profile despite their sterling performance throughout the decades, the best way to get to know them as a financial powerhouse is to go back in time to where it all began.
According to North Carolina banking legend Hugh McColl, himself the dynamo behind the rise of the regional bank NCNB (later renamed Nationsbank) and now chairman emeritus of the private equity company Falfurrias Capital, the Holdings have played things smart for over a century.
The family’s founding patriarch Robert Powell Holding joined the Johnston County’s Bank of Smithfield back in 1918 as an employee. He would eventually become president of the bank – which would be renamed as First Citizens – in 1935. His sons would later join the firm: Lewis took over as CEO at his death in 1957, and Frank Sr was one of the firm’s executives.
Frank Jr, the current chief executive, has been described by his contemporaries as one of the most opportunistic bankers in the industry in the sense that he sees opportunities in crises. The 61-year-old is an alumnus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has spent the whole of his career at the bank, becoming its president in 1994 and taking over as CEO in 2008.
Under Frank Jr’s leadership, First Citizens’ growth has accelerated considerably since 2008 thanks to over twenty acquisitions done with the assistance of the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation (FDIC). These include the acquisition of around $1.8 billion in assets from California’s First Regional Bank, $1.1 billion from Southern California’s Temecula Valley Bank, and $1.8 billion from the United Western Bank in Denver, Colorado.
When Frank Jr took over as CEO in 2008, First Citizens’ assets were worth around $16.7 billion; just before the bank’s acquisition of SVB last month, they stood at around $109 billion.