Synovus Financial Corporation, based in Columbus, provides a diverse array of financial services through its banks and subsidiaries, as well as through Total System Services Incorporated (TSYS), a global electronic payment–processing operation also based in Columbus.
The history of Synovus begins with the establishment of the Third National Bank of Columbus and the Columbus Savings Bank, both incorporated by W. C. Bradley and G. Gunby Jordan in 1888. Jordan served as president of the two banks from 1888 until 1921. Bradley succeeded Jordan as president of both banks, and under his leadership the two organizations merged in 1930 to form Columbus Bank & Trust Company (CB&T). Bradley served as president of CB&T until his death in 1947, when his son-in-law D. Abbott Turner became chairman of the board. Turner, along with his son, William B. Turner, ran CB&T and hired James W. Blanchard as president in 1957. In the 1950s, under Blanchard’s leadership, CB&T got an early start in the credit card business, offering charge cards before BankAmericard (later Visa) and Master Charge (later MasterCard) became national players in the industry.
In 1971 James H. Blanchard succeeded his father as the top executive at CB&T. Together with William B. Turner, who was chairman of the executive committee, he led the company to its current status as one of the largest financial institutions in the Southeast. Due in large part to Blanchard’s efforts to rally support, the Georgia legislature passed the multibank holding company bill in 1976, and CB&T Bancshares, Inc., became the first bank holding company in the state. CB&T Bancshares began to expand into other southeastern states, and in 1989 Blanchard changed its name to Synovus Financial Corporation.
Still based in Columbus, Synovus operates thirty-nine banks in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee, as well as separate trust, brokerage, and mortgage subsidiaries. Financial services offered by the bank include a full line of banking and investment and asset-management products. The company also owns 81 percent of TSYS, the world’s largest third-party processor of electronic payments. Since the 1980s TSYS has made it possible for consumers to use their bankcards securely.
Synovus is known for its family-friendly corporate culture and has consistently been named by Fortune magazine as one of “The 100 Best Companies to Work For” in America. The practice of “servant leadership,” a philosophy based on teamwork and recognition of each individual employee’s worth, is a key component of the company’s management style. This philosophy extends to Synovus’s network of banks as well. A community-focused, decentralized management structure allows the banks to remain autonomous and to employ their own local chief executive officers and boards of directors.
A multibillion-dollar company, Synovus operates under a board of directors and trades on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Between 1979 and 1999 the company’s stock generated the second-highest return on the NYSE. The company appeared in the Keefe, Bruyette, and Woods “Honor Roll” of top-performing banks each year from 1991 to 2004.
U.S. Banker magazine named Blanchard one of the “25 Most Influential People in Financial Services” for 2005. Blanchard retired from his position as chief executive officer of Synovus in 2005 to become chairman of the board. He was succeeded by chief operating officer Richard E. Anthony, who also serves as the advisory director of TSYS.