Citizens and Republic Bank merge; offices to consolidate, some employees impacted

TRAVERSE CITY – Six months after Citizens Bank announced its plans to merge with Republic Bank, the deal is done.

Citizens completed its purchase of the Ann Arbor-based company and made it official on the last day of business in 2006.

Republic has three banking locations in northern Michigan-two full-service locations in Traverse City and a loan office in Petoskey. Jeff Hickman, community president for the former Republic Bank in this region, said the Republic branch at 534 East Front St. will be consolidated into the Citizens Bank located at 1061 East Front St. (intersection of East Front and Garfield). The Republic location at 627 West Front St. (corner of Division and West Front) will become a Citizens branch, as will the Petoskey location.

The merger is valued at approximately $1.050 billion in stock and cash. The new company, Citizens Republic Bancorp based in Flint (NASDAQ: CRBC), is now the second largest bank holding company headquartered in Michigan, based on total assets of $14 billion. Comerica Inc. is the largest bank holding company in Michigan.

Hickman said the branch consolidation came down to a question of how many branches could be supported on Front Street. As far as employee impact, "there will be some attrition, some consolidation into the two branches, and some people have been offered positions in other parts of the bank." Hickman was not able to give actual numbers of affected employees.

Don Hoffman, public relations manager for Citizens Republic Bancorp, said it's impossible to say at this point how many staff members may ultimately be displaced by the local branch consolidation.

"Our human resources department is assisting affected staff members throughout this process," Hoffman said.

The branch consolidation and new signage are slated to be complete by May, said Hickman, who will remain community president. Hoffman added that Citizens wants the merger process "to be as invisible to our clients as possible." Clients won't have to do anything in regard to their accounts.

The merger brings enhanced offerings and convenience to customers, Hickman said, as a much broader selection of products and services will be available. For example, Republic is an expert in Small Business Administration lending while Citizens offers a wealth management division, said Hoffman.

In addition to Michigan, Citizens Bank operates in Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin. Outside of Traverse City, Citizens has several northern Michigan branches including Bellaire, Boyne City, Charlevoix, and Mesick.

Hickman, who has been in the banking industry for 23 years, said the growth of the industry in this part of the state is "all about making banking better and better for customers." "There is a continued desire to be a part of the growth pattern in northwest Michigan and that is attracting strong financial institutions," he said. BN