As Synovus Financial (SNV) celebrated its 125th anniversary this year, its employees got a certain enjoyment from silencing critics who have questioned the company's staying power.

Synovus, which once relied heavily on lending to real estate developers, was clobbered during the financial crisis. It lost more than $3 billion from 2008 to 2011 and accepted nearly $1 billion from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. There were rumors that the Columbus, Ga., company was a potential takeover target.

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