This page is a brief history of Sunrise Bank of Atlanta in recognition of the many positive results of its brief duration.
SBFI managing director Charles H. Green organized Sunrise Bank of Atlanta and served as it’s president/CEO until 2010. The bank’s majority shareholder was Capitol Bancorp (CBC) of Lansing MI. Sunrise was the 46th bank opened by the holding company.
Sunrise began as a Loan Production Office in 2002 for Sunrise Bank of Arizona, another wholly-owned affiliate of CBC and established an Atlanta marketing presence and core business development group. Green recruited the organizing directors, raised capital and with CBC obtained a Georgia bank charter to open as a full service bank in June, 2006.
The bank held a grand opening with more than 200 guests on Saturday August 5th presided over by then-Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, who cut a ribbon comprised of 100 $1 bills, which were donated to the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund.
2006 was a prolific year for new Georgia banks, which expanded by a record-high 19 charters issued by the Department of Banking and Finance (DBF), three of which opened in midtown Atlanta between May-July 2006. More than half of the banks from the class of 2006 failed by mid-2013. Sunrise Bank was the latest Georgia bank among the class to close as of this writing.
While the bank did not ultimately succeed, it was an admired banking company that brought together a diverse group of community leaders who served as the board of directors and an exceptional staff who were dedicated to the bank’s mission, growth and clients. Although struggling in the face of the housing bubble and financial crisis, which were in full force less than two years after the bank’s opening, Sunrise Bank was favorably viewed by most clients.
Capital Bancorp continued building their national footprint through early 2008, when their total count reached 65 banks. But as the full effects of the crisis became recognized, they quickly began consolidating units in California, Nevada, Michigan, Colorado and Arizona, while selling off banks in some other markets.
As credit losses depleted resources and the accompanying recession wore down revenues, CBC struggled to keep their remaining banks funded with adequate capital while assets shrank. Capital Bancorp filed for bankruptcy protection in August, 2012.
The Art of Banking
Sunrise Bank of Atlanta employed the phrase “the Art of Banking” as its marketing theme to convey the bank’s non-conventional, creative approach to managing business and
consumer clients. The bank displayed a revolving collection of visual art to engage clients and prospects alike, and in the process introduced many local artists and musicians to the client base through multiple art exhibits and social gatherings in the bank’s spacious offices at 900 West Peachtree Street.
The bank’s outreach provided banking services to more than 50 non-profit cultural groups while many staff members served on the boards of almost two dozen community organizations. Although the smallest bank in metro Atlanta, Sunrise used it’s creative marketing and unique affiliation with the arts community to garner strong media coverage and community support. In addition, bank president Charles Green served as Chair of the Fulton County Arts Council for eight years.
Sunrise Bank was organized under CBC’s strategic business model of leveraging a small local capital base with the larger resources of a centralized holding company. CBC provided the bank with backroom processing, CFO support, IT support, legal counsel, marketing support, loan review, credit administration, regulatory reporting, a regional president and two board members.
The model worked very well in the years leading to the founding of Sunrise, enough to convince Georgia’s DBF to approve the Sunrise charter with only $8 million capital. The American Bankers Association even named CBC Chairman Joseph Reid as its 2006 “Innovator of the Year” for the admirable growth model he developed to expand CBC’s banking empire.
Sunrise focused on loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration from its beginning. The entire business development group had good relations with the Georgia District office and consequently were able to gain approval as an SBA Preferred Lender within 3 months of opening the Atlanta LPO and 2 months of opening the bank.
The lenders were all previously involved with the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors (ACBR) to develop new business opportunities among their membership and in recognition of their active participation, the board named Sunrise Bank it’s “Affiliate Member of the Year” in 2005. In 2007, Green was asked to serve as only the second affiliate member of ACBR’s Board of Directors and in 2008 as the first non-realtor to serve on their RPAC Commercial Alliance Board of Trustees.
With the addition of a $40 million SBA loan portfolio that was originated during it’s LPO years, Sunrise’s balance sheet grew to about $50 million in assets within 18 months, and by 12/31/2007, the bank had achieved positive earnings in two months. One key was the bank’s reaching the 98 percentile of its peer banks nationally in the area of non-interest income and net interest margins.
Steady monthly profits were projected beginning in the second quarter of 2008 when the Federal Reserve started slashing the Fed Funds rate in December, 2007. The rapidly deteriorating economy caught thousands of banks flat-footed, and to no one’s surprise, the thinly capitalized CBC banking family were all squeezed by the worsening effects to small businesses nationwide that constituted their core client base.
Only 2-3 CDC banks were heavily invested in housing construction or A&D development, which led to hundreds of bank closings. Rather, Sunrise Bank’s dilemma was typical of many CBC banks, who found that many Mom & Pop businesses were affected immediately by the rising national unemployment rate and the housing market collapse. The loss of jobs directly impacted customers of client day-care centers, convenience stores, hospitality and restaurants that were financed by the bank, leading to payment defaults and many business failures.
One bright spot in the bank’s performance was the aggregation of targeted clients in the international community. Atlanta is the destination for thousands of foreign businesses that establish a base here to manage their U.S. or Southeast operations. While the state spends hundreds of thousands to recruit these companies, their employees are non-citizens who still face a number of obstacles to get domestic credit cards, finance automobiles and even open a checking account.
Most larger banks shied away from these accounts due to the more burdensome efforts required to train staff on compliance with the overlapping regulations required to validate identification and document compliance.
Recognizing this opportunity, Sunrise Bank doubled down on training staff to capably manage these accounts and rolled out marketing efforts targeting these professionals -many before they even arrived in the U.S. Through a coordinated effort, the bank provided deposit services, financed automobiles, home mortgages and even provided credit cards for non-citizen residents from more than 30 different nations.
The bank was regularly referred prospective clients directly from both the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, despite the bank’s very small size and downtown location. Sunrise was an active member of nine foreign chambers and hosted many events for these organizations at the bank. In total, the bank was visited by the Consul General or Honorary Consuls from almost 20 nations. The resulting deposit and credit business provided impressive metrics for the effort.
Sunrise Bank of Atlanta was placed into receivership on May 13, 2013 by the FDIC and its assets were acquired by Bank of North Georgia.
Links to several articles about the bank or bank personnel are found below:
Brazilian Chamber Elects New Board 05/18/2011 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Rhett Turner to Receive Hero Award From World Chamber of Commerce 11/20/2009 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Atlanta’s World Chamber Launches Trade Symposium & Gala 10/27/2009 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Georgia Exports to Dip But Remain Relatively High 08/07/2009 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Sunrise Bank Art Exhibit Opening 08/05/2009 Northside News-Read Article
World Chamber Host Networking Event 07/30/2009 Atlanta Business Chronicle Read Article
Lucinda Bunnen at Sunrise Bank 11/26/2008 Northside News-Read Article
Community Influencers Guest DJ on WCLK 10/01/2008 WCLK Jazzette-Read Article
2008 Sunrise Bank/Capitol Bancorp Annual Report 04/01/2008 Read Article
Dogwood Sunrise Unveiled at Sunrise Bank 03/10/2008 Atlanta Journal Constitution-Read Article
Northern Ireland Glass Crafter Makes Fated Business Move to Georgia 03/10/2008 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Sunrise Bank’s June Kossow Named as ICBA Rising Star 02/11/2008 Atlanta Business Chronicle
Dedication and Talent Make Five Community Bankers Shine 02/01/2008 Independent Banker
ICBA Independent Banker Highlights Community Banking’s Shining Stars 02/01/2008 Read ICBA News Release
Air Force General to Launch Health Care Centers with Patriot Express Loan 10/17/2007 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Atlanta-Chengdu Celebrate Panda and Cultural Ties 09/17/2007 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Banking On the Arts 09/01/2007 Business2BusinessMagazine-Read Article
Relocation a Win-Win for School, Developers 08/27/2007 Atlanta Business Chronicle Read Article
Sunrise Opens in Town 05/2007 InTown Newspaper-Read Article
The Art of Banking Renews Every Six Months 04/04/2007 Capitol Connections-Read Article
Sunrise Introduces Wealth Management 04/23/2007 Atlanta Business Chronicle
Atlanta Bank Reaching Out to Intl Newcomers 04/07/2007 GlobalAtlanta.com-Read Article
Newest Community Bank Hosts Art Opening 04/04/2007 Sandy Springs Neighbor-Read Article
2007 Sunrise Bank/Capitol Bancorp Annual Report 04/01/2007 Read Article
American Banks Target Koreatown Customers 03/28/2007 Donga Daily News-Read Article
Downtown Design Excellence Award to Sunrise Bank 11/15/2006 Central Atlanta Progress-Read Article
Sunrise Bank Expands to Become Full Service Commercial Bank 06/26/2006 Atlanta Business Chronicle
Sunrise Raising $8 Million to go Full Service 03/27/2006 Atlanta Business Chronicle
Sunrise Hires Three Executives for Mortgage Banking 05/09/2005 Atlanta Business Chronicle
Charles Green Named Financial Services Champion by SBA 04/18/2005 Atlanta Business Chronicle