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Mountain 1st branches become First Citizens banks

Mountain 1st Bank's home office and its branches got new signs over the New Year's holiday and reopened on Thursday as First Citizens Bank branches.

First Citizens and Mountain 1st announced on Aug. 28 that the Raleigh bank would buy the Hendersonville bank for $10 million, with $8 million of the price going to settle Mountain 1st's TARP debt. Mountain 1st stockholders received 38 cents a share.

"We want to welcome our new customers to First Citizens," First Citizens chairman and CEO Frank B. Holding Jr. said in a news release issued Thursday. "The values that underpin each bank made us very compatible, and we are well positioned to move forward together to better serve the personal and business needs of customers with expanded financial services and products, while maintaining a personal approach to banking. We’re committed to making this transition as easy as possible and continuing to build strong, long-term relationships."
Customers should bank as they normally do at their existing branches, First Citizens said. Mountain 1st customer accounts are expected to be converted to First Citizens’ systems this spring. Customers will be notified in writing of the transition.
In the meantime, customers should continue to use their Mountain 1st Bank checks, ATM, debit and credit cards. They will still have online access to their accounts. Mountain 1st customers already can use any First Citizens ATM with no surcharge fees on cash withdrawals.

Customers with questions can contact a representative at any of the former Mountain 1st Bank branches or call the First Citizens Customer Care Center at 1.866.407.0324 between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m. Eastern time daily.
Mountain 1st shareholders approved the sale to First Citizens 2.8 million to 786,000 on Dec. 10. Although many shareholders were disgruntled that the value of their stock had plunged by 96 percent, a majority had been expected to approve the sale because it was the best alternative available for the struggling local bank.

Founded in 2004, Mountain 1st grew rapidly and became a star among community banks. It operated two branches in Hendersonville and others in Asheville, Brevard, Columbus, Etowah, Fletcher, Forest City, Hickory, Marion, Shelby and Waynesville.
Founded in 1898, First Citizens Bank has 402 offices in 17 states and the District of Columbia and $21 billion in assets.
Keeping the Hendersonville, Etowah and Fletcher branches would give First Citizens nine branches in Henderson County. The Raleigh-based bank, headquartered locally downtown, already had three branches in Hendersonville, one in Mills River and one in Fletcher.

"At this time we have made no decisions regarding branches in your area," First Citizens spokeswoman Barbara Thompson said when asked whether all would remain open. "We're always evaluating our network" as to which branches are needed.

On the first day of business as First Citizens branches, the former Mountain 1st banks were busy and bank employees had heard numerous positive comments from customers, she added. "We had a good first day," she said.