GREENSBORO, N.C. — HomeTrust Bancshares knew deposits would flee as it waited to close its purchase of 10 branches from Bank of America — the big challenge was making sure the Asheville, N.C., company kept as many clients as possible after completing the deal.

Dana Stonestreet, HomeTrust's chief executive, on Monday gave a detailed walk-through of the $3 billion-asset company's efforts to retain business in the months after buying the branches last November. His presentation occurred during a bank directors conference hosted by the North Carolina Bankers Association.

HomeTrust decided to be proactive "after hearing of other banks' experiences" with customer attrition tied to B of A branch deals, he said.

So the company created a call center, staffed with 32 employees trained to serve former Bank of America customers. The call center received 600 calls the day the purchase closed, he said, with the number of daily calls swelling to 2,000 before eventually settling down.

HomeTrust also instructed employees to watch for customers using branch ATMs. Tellers and other branch employees were urged to go out and encourage ATM users to come inside to receive assurance that the bank would not assess fees for transactions made inside the branch.

The company also tried to communicate in person with as many customers as possible. "Most people won't read what you send them five times," Stonestreet said.

The former Bank of America branches "have held their own pretty well" since the deal's November closing, Stonestreet said in an interview after his presentation, adding that no meaningful attrition took place after the ownership change.

That is a notable accomplishment considering the branches lost 52% of their deposits between the deal's June announcement and its completion five months later. Ultimately, the company gained $240 million in deposits.

Bank of America "controls the process … right up until closing," Stonestreet said.

Overall, the branches still gave a nice lift to HomeTrust's retail operations, increasing the company's total number of deposit accounts by 60%, Stonestreet said. In addition, the acquisition more than doubled the number of debit cards issued and nearly tripled customer use of Internet banking.

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