Our founders took the risk of starting a brand-new bank – right before the 2008 Downturn. And the challenges have helped make us who we are today.
In the summer of 2005, when Atlantic Capital President and CEO Doug Williams first had the idea to create a new bank, he knew it wouldn’t be easy.
“Banking is different from other industries in the startup phase,” he explains. “You need a lot of infrastructure. Organizationally, technologically, compliance-wise – it all has to be there from Day One. You need a fully conceived organization. You can’t say, ‘Let’s go get this customer and figure out what to do.’”
At the time, he and a number of Atlantic Capital’s current leadership team were longtime employees of a large and well-known national bank. But the bank had recently experienced a takeover, and the culture they had come to know and love over the course of their decades-long careers had become something vastly different. They felt that things could be better.
So they took an opportunity to leave their current roles and start a midsize bank with the aim of providing tailored solutions for commercial clients using a responsive, high-touch approach.
“We rented furniture for the offices on my credit card,” says Kurt Shreiner, EVP, Corporate Financial Services, of the bank’s earliest days. “I remember my wife asking me, ‘Do you think we’ll get paid back?’ All I could tell her was, ‘I hope so.’”
And the task ahead was far from simple. “Our initial capital raise was set at $100 million, which had never been done by a bank before in U.S. history,” Doug explains. “We had about a third of that from an early private equity group, but we still had a long way to go. And it was slow. We spent $6 million before we even opened our doors.”
Despite some anxious days, they succeeded. And after securing the required funding, Atlantic Capital opened its first accounts on May 15, 2007. The real challenge, however, was still to come.
The global financial crisis that occurred in the spring of 2008, and the deep recession that followed, hit the Atlanta area particularly hard, causing a large number of the city’s banks to fail.
“When we started, there were around 330 banks in the state of Georgia,” Doug explains. “There are 166 today. And of those that are missing, 90 failed. That tells you how big an impact the recession had on the banking industry in our state.”
But through a disciplined decision-making process, based on sound principles and a refusal to follow industry trends, Atlantic Capital managed to navigate the crisis relatively unscathed.
“With new banks, there’s a lot of pressure to raise capital and grow very quickly,” Doug says. “And you can cut corners to do that. Thankfully, we resisted that temptation, and we have been rewarded for staying true to our original business model.”
And those difficult moments during the first few years have instilled valuable lessons within the organization about the importance of responsible, high-quality banking, along with the value of the entrepreneurial spirit.
“The financial crisis created a resilience in our team,” Kurt says. “It gave us a sense that we had survived the worst that could happen. And it also gave us a shared experience with our clients, many of whom, as entrepreneurs, have started or managed small businesses themselves. We can relate to what they are going through in terms of the risk and financial insecurity they are facing.”
When looking back on the growth and the challenges Atlantic Capital has experienced over the last 12 years, both Doug and Kurt feel a strong sense of pride at taking on the professional and personal risks of building a company from the ground up. And the bank today is a reflection of their commitment to a positive, team-oriented work environment from the very beginning.
“We’re personally and emotionally invested in what happens here,” Doug says. “If someone tells me they had a bad experience with us, it hurts. And that’s different from a big company. It’s a family here.”
“There are people I work with who I can’t imagine not seeing every day,” Kurt adds. “Our people care about their customers, care about each other, and care about what they’re doing on a daily basis. It’s this feeling that we’re doing something important and meaningful – for the right reasons. That feeling can’t be replicated. It means more to me than anything.”
Over the 12 years since its inception, Atlantic Capital has validated its strategic thesis and established a solid competitive position in Atlanta and specialty markets nationally by fueling client prosperity with creative credit and treasury management solutions and reliable service delivery. “Our dreams 12 years ago have become reality. Atlantic Capital’s future has never been brighter with an attractive corporate culture, a fortress balance sheet, and strong growth momentum,” says Doug.
At Atlantic Capital, we’re here to meet your banking needs. Contact us today to find out how our individualized services and responsive solutions can take your business further.