When we moved from Alton, IL, to Arlington, VA, in 1981, we moved our banking accounts to Virginia National Bank because the Norfolk-based institution had the closest branch to our new condo in the Virginia Square neighborhood.
No long after moving to Arlington, Virginia National Bank became “Sovran Bank” after a merger with a First and Merchants bank in Richmond in 1985.
“Sovran” seemed a strange name but we did not know how it came about until 1988, when I spoke at a national Political Action Committee Conference in Colorado and met Randy McElroy, CEO of Sovran.
Over dinner, I asked about the name. “It is an acronym created by a consultant,” he said. “It means State of Virginia: Richmond and Norfolk.”
I laughed. “I think you made a mistake. Virginia is not a state. It’s a Commonwealth. Shouldn’t the new name be “Covran?”
“I’ll be damned,” MaElroy said. “I don’t think that ever came up in the negotiations for the new name. We paid a consulting company a lot of money to come up with the ‘Sovran’ moniker.”
A couple of years later, “Sovran Bank” became “Nations Bank” after NCNB bought Sovran for $4.2 million. My conversation with McElroy had nothing to do with the change. That then-latest merger turned Sovran from a Virginia bank into one of a national operation.
Our local bank in Arlington had its third new name by the time the 1990s began.
That conversation came to mind this week when a notice arrived from “Union Bank,” where my business checking account is located, saying it becomes “Atlantic Union” in May.
That will be the latest change in what was The First National Bank of Christiansburg when it announced plans to open its branch in Floyd several years ago. That bank became “Stellar One” almost immediately after it opened because of a merger with a bank in Culpeper financial institution and another merger turned it into Union First Market Bank, then Union Bank and Trust before this latest move changes the name, once again. to Atlantic Union Bank.
The branch in Floyd came after a failed attempt of First National Bank of Christiansburg to merge with The Bank of Floyd. The fight over that merger kept The Bank of Floyd the town’s only locally owned bank until it finally merged with Grayson National Bank of Independence to become Skyline National Bank.
The name Skyline, we are told, was a consultant creation.
Before we left Arlington in 2004, “Nations Bank” became Bank of America, when Nations merged with the longtime San Francisco entity.
Our personal accounts with Bank of America went to The Bank of Floyd in 2004 when we moved here but I kept a business Bank of America account because the bank had branches in Hillsville, Blacksburg and Roanoke until BOA scaled back during the banking crisis around 10 years ago.
So I moved the business account to Stellar, which became Union and will soon become Atlantic Union.
We still have checks with Bank of Floyd and StellarOne logos are still usable. New checkbooks from Skyline and Union arrived last year.
Newer ones that say “Atlantic Union” will probably arrive in a few months. I wonder if that book of checks will last before the name changes again.
Probably not, since most of our financial transactions now occur on-line and do not involved the writing of checks.