With a new life in Bogotá on the horizon, I’ve been working to lay out a money plan with a financial planner that specializes in Foreign Service diplomats. The guy I’ve linked up with is really good…definitely worth the money. The thing I like most about him is he understands what financial security means to me. Notice those italics. Most people I’ve dealt with in the financial industry have never really seen it from my lens. They’ve only ever suggested what they would do. I guess I was spoiled back from 2001 to 2003 when I was breaking into this concept of taking care of money. The bank I dealt with back then only ever saw it my way. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: SouthTrust Bank.
How I first came across this moment? My history with the now-defunct bank started in March 2001. The earnings from my early days at Domino’s Pizza went to a savings account I had set up at Regions Bank. From every paycheck, I’d usually deposit everything except for $50…a considerable amount for a 16-year-old in 2001 Birmingham. I remember talking to an old head on the MAX and he was educating me on how to manage my money. He gave me kudos about the savings account but said I should seek to build up that account with untouchable money while opening up a checking account for more transitional funds. I took the advice to heart and did just that: opened a checking account. I stopped in at the SouthTrust Bank on the Birmingham Green…in the big SouthTrust Tower building. A gentleman by the name of Douglass Adair helped me out and that was basically when my history with SouthTrust started.
What it meant to me then? Initially, I didn’t see it as being too much different than my business at Regions. The only thing was that SouthTrust had more branches and was far more accessible. I don’t know if it was just a downtown thing but everybody just seemed so professional. I didn’t necessarily get the same attention, the same kindness from Regions or even the suburban SouthTrust locations. It was a good relationship from the start. Since I worked the 5pm-1:30am shift on Fridays, I stopped in every other Friday to talk to Douglass about my money and to make my deposits. I usually picked up my checks on the Thursday following a Friday payday for this reason. Douglass schooled me early about money and I eventually felt comfortable enough to move all of my loot from Regions to SouthTrust, making it a one-stop-shop for me.
What it means to me now? When I left for college and the Air Force, I didn’t really have a lot of SouthTrust Bank locations at my disposal. It’s a good thing that they didn’t punish me on ATM withdrawal fees because I was a servicemember in an area that didn’t have a close branch. It was also a good thing that all of my incoming money was via direct deposit as opposed to in-branch transactions. I did, however, have to make the 30-mile drive from Valdosta to Madison, Florida for in-branch business. It was actually closer than the branch in Tifton, Georgia…even with the advantage of the 70 MPH speed limit on I-75. In August 2005, I received a letter from SouthTrust informing me that they were merging with Wachovia Bank. A month later, I received new bank cards with the Wachovia livery. When I activated them, my history with SouthTrust Bank was just that: history. It’s been 16 years since I last stepped into a SouthTrust Bank branch. I was fortunate enough to make a stop into the SouthTrust Tower branch before everything changed over to Wachovia. Everything changed after that merger. Even though they had a greater national reach, I felt that Wachovia was more corporate and I never got the personal attention that was the hallmark of the SouthTrust days. Fortunately, for me, Wachovia merged with Wells Fargo and it’s been a great relationship for the past 12 years.