By STEVEN NALLEY
Cadence Bank President Mark Abernathy confirmed Monday 17 employees at the bank’s Starkville operations center will be laid off by the end of September.
Abernathy said the layoffs come from consolidation; the loan operations department at the Starkville center will move to and combine with its counterpart in the Birmingham, Ala. operations center. He said the exact date is not firm and the decision was difficult.
“In the case of these employees, we’re really going to strive to find them jobs within the Golden Triangle,” Abernathy said. “We do employ over 200 people in the Golden Triangle, (so) we do have opportunities for our employees to do other jobs here. We’ll offer them severance and other assistance to do the right thing by them.”
Abernathy said the consolidation will also create new jobs in Birmingham analogous to the ones lost in Starkville, possibly more than 17 of them. In addition to the local assistance, he said, laid-off employees are welcome to apply for these Birmingham jobs.
Cadence has operations centers in both Starkville and Birmingham to improve data security, Abernathy said. Both of them share data, and if one shuts down for any reason, the other can take over, he said.
“When you have power outages (or) inclement weather, we’re never down,” Abernathy said. “We’re never without support for our customers.”
Abernathy said the decision to consolidate these centers’ loan departments came at both the corporate and local levels, but he takes primary responsibility for it. He said the decision will optimize service quality, cost efficiency and risk management, and it is not related to the bank’s sale in early 2011 or any financial problems.
“It’s a result of growth, quite to the contrary,” Abernathy said. “In Starkville, our commercial bank deposits are up 10 percent in December (2011 to) June of this year. Cadence is one of the best, if not the best capitalized bank in this region. Our capital exceeds the highest standard for banks by 25 percent.
“When you have growth, it’s important that you continually evaluate your operations,” Abernathy added. “Customer service is not possible without good people and a good technology platform. There’s efficiency and some advantages (in) having all of our loan operations in one spot. That is the best explanation I can give.”
Abernathy said he views both operations centers as equally important, and it has invested $4 million in the Starkville center since September 2010. Over time, he said, Cadence plans for the two centers to complement one another, but right now the Starkville layoffs are the only ones on the table.
“I know of no other cuts planned in the foreseeable future,” Abernathy said. “As we grow, we’ll continue to look at how we’re organized in both of our operations centers. The prospects of jobs coming this way from Birmingham is just as likely as what we’re looking at here.”
Abernathy said he does not expect the changes to have a significant impact on Starkville’s customers.
“I think we deliver good customer service today,” Abernathy said, “and we’ll continue to do so in the future.”
Cadence’s Starkville President Marcus Mallory was unavailable for comment Monday.