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Susquehanna bank sale resonates in small towns

BB&T Corp.’s takeover of Susquehanna Bancshares may not cause huge ripples in Baltimore, where the latter has only a handful of branches, but for communities along the Maryland-Pennsylvania border it’s a huge deal.

In many of those towns, Susquehanna is the dominant lender and a longtime community presence.

Take Hagerstown, for instance. With 13 branches and about $787 million in deposits, Susquehanna is the city’s largest banking presence, with almost 25 percent of the market, according to SNL Financial.

In Cumberland, Susquehanna’s five branches hold $289 million in deposits, about one-third of the market. In that western Maryland town, it’s also the No. 1 bank.

The picture is quite similar across the border in Pennsylvania, where the bank is the largest in Lancaster and Sunbury and among the top three in York and Chambersburg.

Contrast that with Baltimore, where Susquehanna’s 23 branches and $1.5 billion in deposits make it only the seventh-largest in the market.

Susquehanna also has been an aggressive lender in the commercial real estate market and the business communities in the towns it serves, according to the bank’s data. About 28 percent of its loans go to commercial real estate projects, with another 14 percent for industrial and commercial purposes.

William J. Reuter, Susquehanna’s chairman and chief executive officer, told the Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Newspapers that the transaction will have a favorable impact overall in the communities where the Lititz, Pennsylvania-based company does business.

“Our customers will be dealing with the same people, but who are backed by a much larger organization,” said Reuter. “They’ll have access to more products and services — just a better overall platform to make our customers able to succeed.”

Officials said Susquehanna’s branches will be kept open, but they’ll be renamed. While all “client-facing” employees – loan officers, tellers and the like – will keep their jobs, an undetermined number of back-office and support positions will be eliminated.

BB&T, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, dwarfs Susquehanna in size: $187 billion in deposits to $18.6 billion. BB&T is embarked on an expansion strategy, recently agreeing to acquire a Kentucky bank and 41 Texas branches from Citigroup Inc.

The company’s acquisition of Susquehanna still needs the approval of banking regulators and Susquehanna’s shareholders.