First Citizens Bank celebrated its 125th year in business on March 1. The company will recognize the milestone throughout the year.
“If the past is any guide, we’ll bring our ‘Forever First’ values to our customers for years to come,” Frank Holding, chairman and CEO of First Citizens Bank, said. “This means making a difference in their lives, their careers, their bottom lines and their futures.”
First Citizens Bank opened for business on March 1, 1898, as the Bank of Smithfield. At that time, the economy of surrounding Johnston County, NC, was primarily driven by agriculture. With $10,000 in capital, the bank’s founders helped local farmers rise above economic hardships by securely holding their money and making sensible loans to them and their neighbors.
In 1918, Robert Powell “R.P.” Holding joined the bank as an assistant cashier and bookkeeper-teller. By that time, the bank had accumulated $500,000 in total reserves. Within a few short years, Holding was elected bank president. Under his leadership, the bank adopted a statewide charter and changed its name to First-Citizens Bank & Trust Co.
During the Great Depression — which forced other banks to close, taking people’s life savings with them — First Citizens Bank continued to grow in customers, accounts and assets.
When Robert Powell Holding died in 1957, the bank held $200 million in assets. His three sons — Robert Jr., Lewis and Frank, all aged 32 or younger at the time — took on responsibilities for leading the bank, and First Citizens grew steadily, adding new products, services and technologies.
First Citizens took one of its largest steps forward in 2022, when it merged with CIT. CIT brought to the merger its complementary, long-established relationships with commercial and industrial clients, including shipping and rail; community association and market banking; equipment finance and leasing; treasury and payment services; and other key markets.
Now, with its suite of retail franchises and banking products, as well as its market position in nationwide commercial lending and direct digital banking, First Citizens serves a broad spectrum of individuals, small and medium-sized businesses, commercial-sized and industrial enterprises, and wealth customers.
Today, First Citizens BancShares is a top 20 financial institution based on assets in the United States. The bank employs more than 10,000 associates, holds more than $100 billion in assets and maintains more than 500 brick-and-mortar branches in 22 states, all in addition to offering a direct digital bank that functions entirely virtually.
The bank remains family-controlled to this day, with a third generation of Holding family members working at the helm. That gives First Citizens the privilege to think long term and to resist short-term economic headwinds and market demands, according to Hope Holding Bryant, the bank’s vice chairwoman.
“Families don’t think quarter-to-quarter; they think about next year and five or 10 years after that, and so do we,” Holding Bryant said.
During its recognition of its 125th service anniversary, First Citizens will celebrate its corporate values, including building meaningful relationships, delivering excellent service and producing powerful results for customers. Those core corporate values haven’t changed in 125 years, and they never will, Frank Holding said.
“The way people bank with us changes; it always has, and it always will,” Frank Holding said. “But the values we bring to our customers — concern for people, empathy and respect — those shouldn’t ever change.”
As part of helping customers succeed financially and plan for their futures, First Citizens is investing in its communities. The company has committed to investing $16 billion by 2025 to nonprofit organizations that support affordable home ownership, small business lending and community development in low- and moderate-income communities. The bank is well on its way to fulfilling that promise early, Frank Holding said.