On Tuesday, October 23, 1883, 12 highly regarded New Orleans business and civic leaders met to discuss the growing banking needs of their thriving port city. Envisioning a future filled with strong commerce and opportunities for people, they made plans to open a bank. They articulated the core ideals that this new institution should embody in the bank's by-laws, and three days later, Whitney National Bank was born.
|The First Whitney Bank Office
Whitney Bank first occupied offices at 137 Gravier Street, now part of the present bank building.
Since its founding on October 26, 1883, "the Whitney" has endured as the oldest continuously operating bank in New Orleans and as an industry leader throughout the Gulf South. Through more than 100 years of change—financial crises, mergers, wars, recessions, and the Depression, Whitney remains steadfastly loyal to the fundamental principles and sensible business practices set forth by its founders: strong capital, sound ethics, exceptional service, and solid commitment to economic development balanced by the preservation of local heritage.
Today, with approximately $20 billion in assets, Hancock Holding Company (Nasdaq: HBHC) is the parent company of Whitney Bank and Hancock Bank, two century-old institutions founded on core ideals of Honor & Integrity, Strength & Stability, Commitment to Service, Teamwork, and Personal Responsibility. One of Forbes' "100 Most Trustworthy Companies" for two years in a row, Hancock Holding Company operates hundreds of banking offices and ATMs of Whitney Bank and Hancock Bank across a Gulf South corridor spanning South Mississippi; southern Alabama; south central Louisiana; the northern, central, and Panhandle regions of Florida; and metropolitan Houston, Texas.
The Hancock Holding Company financial services family also includes Hancock Investment Services, Inc.; Hancock Insurance Agency and Whitney Insurance Agency, Inc.; corporate trust offices in Gulfport and Jackson, Mississippi, New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Orlando, Florida; and Harrison Finance Company.
The Whitney family, a prominent New Orleans dynasty dedicated to facilitating commerce and opportunity for the Crescent City and its people, were principal founders of Whitney Bank. Many members of the Whitney family have continued to play important roles in the bank's growth for generations.
George Q. Whitney
The Whitney family story started with Commodore Charles Morgan. Born in Connecticut, he was a self-made entrepreneur who began his path to fortune as a retail clerk in New York City. Ultimately, he amassed most of his wealth as a shipping magnate who, along with Cornelius Vanderbilt, was recognized as a major influence in expanding the United States shipping industry.
Morgan launched his financial success with ships, then forged prosperity for his home region through iron and railroads. His business ventures progressed trade between the Gulf Coast—especially New Orleans—and New York. In 1857 Morgan linked New Orleans and Brashear, Louisiana, with railroad service, thus shortening the important shipping route between Galveston, Texas, and New Orleans. To pay tribute to Morgan's contributions to the local economy, the Brashear city council renamed the town Morgan City in 1876.
Commodore Morgan died in 1878, and his various railroad lines were eventually sold to Southern Pacific. In 1883 Marie Louise Morgan Whitney used the proceeds from the sale of her father's railroad empire as financial backing for her sons Charles and George Whitney to start Whitney National Bank. Mrs. Whitney served as one of the first directors of the bank.
Like many post-Reconstruction Era cities and towns across the South, New Orleans was grappling with the challenges of growing populations and emerging new economies. However, those changes sparked many local opportunities. As the city prepared to host the World Cotton Exposition of 1884, New Orleans basked in a boon of business growth. The completion of the Eads jetties on the Mississippi River channeled more trade through the Port of New Orleans. Additionally, the expansion of cross-country passenger railroad service linked bustling New Orleans with the flourishing West Coast.
The Whitney Bank began as the smallest of 13 banks in town. Between 1888 and 1911, the bank grew swiftly through a complex series of mergers with several local banks. By 1911, the Whitney, then known as the Whitney Central National Bank of New Orleans, had moved to the bank's current headquarters at 228 St. Charles Avenue from 137 Gravier Street (now part of the present bank building). In 1918, Whitney Bank acquired the Bank of Orleans. Two presidents of that bank, Peter Hellwege and Eugene H. Roberts, had served concurrent terms as presidents of the Bank of Orleans and Hancock County Bank (now Hancock Bank). In 1933, the bank's name changed back to Whitney National Bank.
WWII & the Post-War Boom
During World War II, the Whitney once again shone as a catalyst for community opportunity, offering machinery and contracting advice and financing, ration book accounts, and War Bonds. As they had done in The Great War (WWI), many Whitney associates served at home and fought on battlefields abroad to preserve America's freedoms. Whitney Bank paid those associates for any loss in pay during military service.
The post-war years saw the bank's deposits grow from $141 million to $353 million. The bank expanded with new branches in Louisiana and offered assistance to countries ravaged by the war.
In 1961, Whitney Holding Corporation was established to manage the operations of the bank and to expand the bank into other parishes. Starting in the mid-1980s, Whitney Bank began expanding throughout the Gulf South. Between 1985 and 2008, Whitney Bank engaged in acquisition agreements with 27 financial institutions in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida and was the first Louisiana bank to move into Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
The iconic Whitney clock became a familiar sight in growing hubs such as Gulfport, Mississippi; south central Alabama; Pensacola, Destin-Fort Walton, and Tampa-St. Petersburg; and Houston, Texas.
On December 21, 2010, Gulfport, Mississippi, financial services company Hancock Holding Company and Whitney Holding Corporation agreed to merge. With the merger in second quarter 2011, Whitney National Bank's charter was dissolved. Hancock Bank of Alabama became part of the Hancock Bank charter; and Hancock Bank of Louisiana was re-chartered and renamed as Whitney Bank.
That series of transactions established Hancock Holding Company as a preeminent Gulf South financial services company reinforced by two strong state-chartered, FDIC-insured banks: Whitney Bank, headquartered in New Orleans and serving Louisiana and Texas; and Hancock Bank, based in Gulfport and serving Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.
Prior to the 2011 merger with Hancock Holding Company, 13 chief executives had led Whitney through 127 years of financial services excellence, including bank presidents James T. Hayden (1883-1905), George Q. Whitney (1905-1907), Charles Godchaux (1907-1914), Solomon Wexler (1914-1916), John E. Bouden, Jr. (1916-1930), John D. O'Keefe (1930-1938), Keehn W. Berry (1938-1969), William A. Carpenter (1969-1976), Patrick A. Delaney (1976-1984), and R. King Milling (1984-1990); Chairman & CEO William L. Marks (1990-2008); and Chairman & CEO John C. Hope and President John M. Turner (2008-2011).
During the 2011 merger with Hancock Holding Company, New Orleans native and veteran banker Joseph S. Exnicios became president of Whitney Bank. Exnicios, Hancock Holding Company President and Chief Executive Officer Carl J. Chaney, Hancock Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer John M. Hairston, and a management committee representing 375-plus years of collective experience perpetuate century-old team oriented leadership traditions and an ongoing management succession strategy that have secured the extraordinary legacy of leadership distinguishing both Whitney Bank and Hancock Bank.
Whitney Bank has grown considerably since Mrs. Whitney first exercised her influence to sustain the development of the bank. Likewise, parent company Hancock Holding Company and sister bank Hancock Bank have far exceeded the footprint of Hancock's original wood-frame site in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
However, the two banks' shared founding values — Honor & Integrity, Strength & Stability, and Commitment to Service, Teamwork, and Personal Responsibility — have remained in place and unwavering. Similarly, the company's mission of helping people achieve their financial goals and dreams continues to foster unmatched service rooted in the resilient spirit, proud traditions, and gracious hospitality that differentiate Whitney Bank, Hancock Bank, and the Gulf South hometowns both banks serve.
Through natural disasters, national crises, economic fluctuations, and cultural change, Hancock Holding Company, Whitney Bank, and Hancock Bank have weathered literal and figurative storms and provided customers a safe place to deposit their money. The successes of Hancock Holding Company and its two banks spring from a passionate corporate commitment to founding principles,a conservative business philosophy, the ongoing confidence of stockholders and customers, and generations of associates devoted to ensuring shareholder value while helping local families and businesses discover the right financial choices.
Whether proactively delivering innovative business banking solutions or helping families secure their futures, Whitney, Hancock, and nearly 5,000 associates in five states embrace a founding pledge to nurture strategic corporate growth, well-planned community development, and the exceptional quality of life unique to the Gulf South.
|The Story of Whitney Bank's Hallmark – The Whitney Clock|