Regions Financial Corporation of Birmingham, Alabama, and Union Planters Corporation of Memphis merged in June 2004 to form a new company with over eighty billion dollars in assets and over five million customers. By consolidating, the new Regions Financial Corporation expanded its retail banking, trust, securities brokerage, mortgage, and insurance services to fourteen hundred branch offices in fifteen states—Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. This made the company the top financial institution in the South, the twelfth nationwide in terms of deposits, and the sixteenth in terms of total assets in 2004.
Union Planters, the oldest bank in Memphis, began as the DeSoto Insurance and Trust Company in 1857 before converting to banking in 1869 as Union and Planters Bank of Memphis. The chief bank in Memphis by 1917, Union Planters was the first bank in Tennessee to join the new Federal Reserve System. The bank survived the Depression in spite of a run on deposits in 1928 and two buyouts in 1929. The post-World War II years brought sustained growth. In the 1960s, Union Planters ranked in the nation’s top fifty banks in deposits, and reached the one-billion-dollar mark by the early 1970s. Threatened in the 1980s by bankruptcies and loan failures, bank executives and directors recognized the need to reorganize as a bank holding company, which they called Union Planters Corporation. Profits increased steadily as the corporation amassed total assets of over four billion dollars by 1990 and almost thirty-two billion by December 2003. This positioned Union Planters, Tennessee’s largest bank holding company and one of the nation’s top twenty-five, for consolidation with Regions in the early twenty-first century.
Regions Financial had its start in June 1971 as First Alabama Bancshares, Inc., Alabama’s first multibank holding company. In 1970, amendments to the Federal Bank Holding Company Act of 1956 sparked a consolidation movement among banks nationally, enabling them to expand and capitalize assets in ways not allowed previously. First Alabama Bancshares, Inc., had merged three historic banks in the state, including the Exchange Security Bank of Birmingham, the First National Bank of Huntsville, and the First National Bank of Montgomery. By 1994, the company outgrew its “Alabama” label and was renamed Regions Financial Corporation.
Negotiations for the merger of Union Planters and Regions Financial were completed in January 2004. Some stockholders protested the merger and filed a class action lawsuit against it. By May 2004, an agreement in principle settled the pending litigation. The merger of Regions Financial and Union Planters became final on June 17, 2004. Regions’s banking headquarters remained in Birmingham, as did Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc., its investment and brokerage firm, and Rebsamen Insurance, its insurance agency. Regions Mortgage, the company’s mortgage business, located its headquarters in Memphis. The new corporation was ranked in the top five on Fortune’s 2004 list of the “Most Admired Superregional Banks in the United States.”