ABINGDON, Va. — As two Southwest Virginia banks prepare to merge, several corporate employees of Abingdon-based Highlands Union Bank will be laid off as a result of their employer being acquired by First Community Bank.

The banks’ parent companies — Highlands Bankshares, Inc. and First Community Bankshares, Inc., of Bluefield — announced the signing of a merger agreement in September. Once the transaction is complete, First Community is expected to have total consolidated assets of over $2.8 billion, according to a previous news release about the deal.

In recent weeks, Highlands employees who were not offered a permanent position at First Community were given information about severance benefits and their last date of service. First Community expects 33 or fewer employees “will be severed from the corporate staff,” according to Sarah W. Harmon, First Community Bank’s senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary.

“As with most mergers, the transaction creates some redundancy in back office functions,” Harmon wrote in an email to the Bristol Herald Courier. “After analyzing both corporations’ work forces and staffing needs, we identified how many positions would be added on the First Community corporate team as a result of the transaction and encouraged Highlands staff to apply for those positions. Highlands corporate employees were also given first priority where possible for open positions at First Community that existed unrelated to the merger.”

The severance dates range from Jan. 17 to Sept. 30, 2020, Harmon said. “We have made every effort to ensure that severed employees were treated with dignity and respect and provided sufficient notice and compensation to find suitable alternative employment … There are still open positions and Highlands staff continue to have the opportunity to apply; however, we wanted to provide as much notice as possible should they not receive a permanent offer.”

First Community does not expect the merger to affect branch staff “at this time,” and Highlands Union branch staff will become First Community employees “in comparable roles” on Jan. 1, Harmon said.

In response to a question about whether any existing Highlands branch locations will close as a result of the acquisition, Harmon said First Community “will continue to evaluate the resulting combined branch network and make any branching decisions at the appropriate time.”

Any potential reductions in branch staff would be handled in the same manner as the severance of the corporate staff, she said.

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tdodson@bristolnews.com | 276-645-2567 | Twitter: @Tim_Dodson

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