0001104659-22-049620.txt : 20220425 0001104659-22-049620.hdr.sgml : 20220425 20220425160617 ACCESSION NUMBER: 0001104659-22-049620 CONFORMED SUBMISSION TYPE: DEF 14A PUBLIC DOCUMENT COUNT: 22 CONFORMED PERIOD OF REPORT: 20220609 FILED AS OF DATE: 20220425 DATE AS OF CHANGE: 20220425 FILER: COMPANY DATA: COMPANY CONFORMED NAME: Ameris Bancorp CENTRAL INDEX KEY: 0000351569 STANDARD INDUSTRIAL CLASSIFICATION: STATE COMMERCIAL BANKS [6022] IRS NUMBER: 581456434 STATE OF INCORPORATION: GA FISCAL YEAR END: 1231 FILING VALUES: FORM TYPE: DEF 14A SEC ACT: 1934 Act SEC FILE NUMBER: 001-13901 FILM NUMBER: 22849735 BUSINESS ADDRESS: STREET 1: 3490 PIEDMONT RD STREET 2: SUITE 1550 CITY: ATLANTA STATE: GA ZIP: 30305 BUSINESS PHONE: 4046396500 MAIL ADDRESS: STREET 1: 3490 PIEDMONT RD STREET 2: SUITE 1550 CITY: ATLANTA STATE: GA ZIP: 30305 FORMER COMPANY: FORMER CONFORMED NAME: ABC BANCORP DATE OF NAME CHANGE: 19920703 FORMER COMPANY: FORMER CONFORMED NAME: ABC HOLDING CO DATE OF NAME CHANGE: 19870119 DEF 14A 1 tm228022-6_def14a.htm DEF 14A tm228022-6_def14a - none - 17.4375583s
UNITED STATES
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
SCHEDULE 14A INFORMATION
Proxy Statement Pursuant to Section 14(a) of the
Securities Exchange Act of 1934
Filed by the Registrant   ☑
Filed by a Party other than the Registrant   ☐
Check the appropriate box:

Preliminary Proxy Statement

Confidential, for Use of the Commission Only (as permitted by Rule 14a-6(e)(2))

Definitive Proxy Statement

Definitive Additional Materials

Soliciting Material Pursuant to Section 240.14a-12
AMERIS BANCORP
(Name of Registrant as Specified In Its Charter)
(Name of Person(s) Filing Proxy Statement, if other than the Registrant)
Payment of Filing Fee (Check the appropriate box):

No fee required.

Fee paid previously with preliminary materials.

Fee computed on table in exhibit required by Item 25(b) per Exchange Act Rules 14a6(i)(1) and 0-11

 
[MISSING IMAGE: lg_amerisbancorp2.jpg]
3490 Piedmont Road N.E., Suite 1550
Atlanta, Georgia 30305
April 25, 2022
Dear Shareholder:
It is my pleasure to invite you to the 2022 Annual Meeting of Shareholders of Ameris Bancorp, which will be held on Thursday, June 9, 2022, at 9:30 a.m. ET.
This year’s annual meeting will be completely virtual, held via live audio webcast. You will be able to attend the meeting and vote your shares by visiting https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX.
Details regarding attendance, how to vote your shares, and the formal business to be conducted at the meeting are included in the accompanying Notice of the 2022 Annual Meeting of Shareholders.
The internet will be the primary means by which we furnish proxy materials to our shareholders. We will send shareholders a notice with instructions for how to access these materials. That notice will also include information for obtaining paper copies of our proxy materials if shareholders choose to do so. This process lowers costs and saves paper, adding convenience for shareholders and contributing to our sustainability efforts.
Whether or not you plan to attend the annual meeting, please vote as soon as possible to ensure your shares are represented and voted at the meeting. You may vote online, via telephone or, if you receive a paper proxy card in the mail, by mailing the completed proxy card. If you attend the annual meeting, you may vote during the meeting even though you have previously voted your proxy.
On behalf of Ameris Bancorp, I thank you for your continued support.
Sincerely,
[MISSING IMAGE: sg_palmerproctor-bw.jpg]
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
 

 
[MISSING IMAGE: lg_amerisbancorp2.jpg]
3490 Piedmont Road N.E., Suite 1550
Atlanta, Georgia 30305
NOTICE OF 2022 ANNUAL MEETING OF SHAREHOLDERS
TO BE HELD ON JUNE 9, 2022
To the Shareholders of Ameris Bancorp:
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the 2022 Annual Meeting of Shareholders of Ameris Bancorp will be held virtually, via live audio webcast at https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX, on Thursday, June 9, 2022, commencing at 9:30 a.m. ET, for the following items of business:
(1)
To elect each of the 13 director nominees named in the accompanying Proxy Statement to serve as a director until our 2023 Annual Meeting of Shareholders and until his or her successor is duly elected and qualified;
(2)
To ratify the appointment of KPMG LLP as our independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022;
(3)
To approve, on an advisory basis, the compensation of our named executive officers; and
(4)
To transact any other business that may properly come before the Annual Meeting or any adjournment or postponement thereof.
The close of business on March 31, 2022, has been fixed as the record date for the determination of shareholders entitled to notice of, and to vote at, the Annual Meeting or any adjournment or postponement thereof. Only shareholders of record as of the close of business on that date are entitled to notice of, and to vote at, the Annual Meeting.
To access the virtual Annual Meeting, visit: https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX. To be deemed present and to have the ability to vote during the Annual Meeting, you will be required to enter your control number. If you are a shareholder of record as of the close of business on the record date, then your control number can be found on the proxy card or Notice of Internet Availability of Proxy Materials you previously received.
If you are a beneficial owner as of the close of business on the record date, then you must register in advance to attend and vote at the Annual Meeting. To register, you must obtain a legally valid proxy from your broker, bank or other nominee and present it to the Company’s transfer agent, Computershare Investor Services. Once you have received a valid proxy from your broker, bank or other nominee, you must email it to Computershare at legalproxy@computershare.com with “Legal Proxy — Ameris Bancorp” in the subject line. Please include with your email proof from your broker, bank or other nominee of your valid proxy reflecting your holdings of our common stock (e.g., a forwarded email from your broker, bank or other nominee with your valid proxy attached, or an image of your valid proxy attached to your email). Requests for registration must be received by Computershare no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on June 6, 2022. You will then receive by email from Computershare a confirmation of your registration, with a control number for use in accessing the virtual meeting website.
Online access to the virtual meeting site will open at 9:15 a.m. ET on June 9, 2022, to allow time for you to log in and test your device’s audio system.
Your vote is important. Whether or not you plan to attend the Annual Meeting, please vote as soon as possible to ensure that your shares will be represented and voted at the Annual Meeting.
By Order of the Board of Directors,
[MISSING IMAGE: sg_michaeltpierson-bw.jpg]
Michael T. Pierson
Corporate Secretary
Atlanta, Georgia
April 25, 2022
 

 
Important notice regarding the availability of proxy materials for the 2022 Annual Meeting of Shareholders to be held on June 9, 2022. In accordance with U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rules, we are using the internet as our primary means of furnishing proxy materials to shareholders. Consequently, most shareholders will not receive paper copies of our proxy materials. We will instead send shareholders a Notice of Internet Availability of Proxy Materials with instructions for accessing the proxy materials, including our Proxy Statement and 2021 Annual Report, and voting via the internet. The Notice of Internet Availability of Proxy Materials also provides information on how shareholders may obtain paper copies of our proxy materials if they so choose. The Proxy Statement, form of proxy card and 2021 Annual Report also are available free of charge at www.envisionreports.com/ABCB.
 

 
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[MISSING IMAGE: lg_amerisbancorp2.jpg]
3490 Piedmont Road N.E., Suite 1550
Atlanta, Georgia 30305
PROXY STATEMENT
FOR 2022 ANNUAL MEETING OF SHAREHOLDERS
TO BE HELD ON JUNE 9, 2022
PROXY STATEMENT SUMMARY
This summary highlights information contained elsewhere in this proxy statement (“Proxy Statement”) and in our 2021 Annual Report to Shareholders, which includes our Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2021 (the “2021 Annual Report”) and accompanies this Proxy Statement. You should read the entire Proxy Statement and the 2021 Annual Report before voting. We are first making the proxy materials available to shareholders on or about April 25, 2022.
In this Proxy Statement: (i) Ameris Bancorp is referred to as “Ameris,” “we,” “our,” “us,” or the “Company”; (ii) Ameris Bank, Ameris’s wholly owned subsidiary, is referred to as the “Bank”; and (iii) the Company’s Board of Directors is referred to as the “Board.”
Information About the 2022 Meeting of Shareholders of Ameris Bancorp (the “Annual Meeting”)
Date:
June 9, 2022
Time:
9:30 a.m. ET
Location:
Virtual format only, via live audio webcast at
https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX.
Record Date
and Voting:
You are entitled to vote at the Annual Meeting if you were a shareholder of record of the Company’s common stock, $1.00 par value per share (the “Common Stock”), as of the close of business on March 31, 2022, the record date for the Annual Meeting (the “Record Date”). Each share of Common Stock represented at the Annual Meeting is entitled to one vote for each director nominee with respect to the proposal to elect directors and one vote for each of the other proposals to be voted on.
Annual Meeting Agenda and Board Voting Recommendations
Items of Business
Board
Recommendation
Page
Number
To elect each of the 13 director nominees named in this Proxy Statement to serve as a director until the Company’s 2023 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (the “2023 Annual Meeting”) and until his or her successor is duly elected and qualified (Proposal 1)
“FOR”
10
To ratify the appointment of KPMG LLP (“KPMG”) as our independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022 (Proposal 2)
“FOR”
11
To approve, on an advisory basis, the compensation of our named executive officers (Proposal 3)
“FOR” 11
 
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In addition to the above matters, we will transact any other business that may properly come before the Annual Meeting or any adjournment or postponement thereof.
How to Cast Your Vote
Whether or not you plan to attend the Annual Meeting, we urge you to vote as soon as possible to ensure that your shares will be represented and voted at the Annual Meeting. If you are a shareholder of record (meaning you hold your shares in your own name) as of the close of business on the Record Date, then you have four voting options. You may vote using one of the following methods:

Over the internet at www.envisionreports.com/ABCB, which you are encouraged to do if you have access to the internet;

By telephone at the number included in your proxy card or Notice of Internet Availability of Proxy Materials (the “Notice”) you previously received;

For those shareholders who request to receive a paper proxy card in the mail, by completing, signing and returning the proxy card; or

By attending the Annual Meeting (by visiting https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX and entering your control number) and following the voting instructions on the virtual meeting site.
How to Attend and Vote at the Annual Meeting
Only shareholders of record as of the close of business on the Record Date, or beneficial owners who follow the instructions below, will be able to attend and vote at the Annual Meeting. Guests will not be able to attend the Annual Meeting.
The Annual Meeting will be held virtually, via live audio webcast. To access the Annual Meeting, visit the virtual meeting site at https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX. To be deemed present and to have the ability to vote during the Annual Meeting, you will be required to enter your control number.
If you are a shareholder of record as of the close of business on the Record Date, then your control number can be found on the proxy card or the Notice you previously received.
If you are a beneficial owner as of the close of business on the Record Date, then you must register in advance to attend and vote at the Annual Meeting. (You are a beneficial owner if your shares are held in “street name” through a bank, broker or other nominee that holds your shares as the holder of record.) To register, you must obtain a legally valid proxy from your broker, bank or other nominee and present it to our transfer agent, Computershare Investor Services (“Computershare”). Once you have received a valid proxy from your broker, bank or other nominee, you must email it to Computershare at legalproxy@computershare.com with “Legal Proxy — Ameris Bancorp” in the subject line. Please include with your email proof from your broker, bank or other nominee of your valid proxy reflecting your holdings of Common Stock (e.g., a forwarded email from your broker, bank or other nominee with your valid proxy attached, or an image of your valid proxy attached to your email). Requests for registration must be received by Computershare no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on June 6, 2022. You will then receive by email from Computershare a confirmation of your registration, with a control number for use in accessing the virtual meeting website.
Once you are admitted to the Annual Meeting, you may vote during the Annual Meeting by following the instructions on the virtual meeting site.
Online access to the virtual meeting site will open at 9:15 a.m. ET on June 9, 2022, to allow time for you to log in and test your device’s audio system.
Shareholder Questions
Shareholders of record and registered beneficial owners who attend the Annual Meeting can submit questions at the virtual meeting site, https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX, by following the instructions available on the virtual meeting site during the meeting. During the Annual Meeting, we intend to answer questions so submitted that are pertinent to the Company and meeting matters, as time permits.
 
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Shareholder List
An electronic list of shareholders of record as of the Record Date will be available for examination by shareholders at https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX during the Annual Meeting, along with the proxy materials for the Annual Meeting.
Business Overview
We are proud of the results that we delivered in 2021, including:

Net income of  $376.9 million, or $5.40 per diluted share, compared with $262.0 million, or $3.77 per diluted share, in 2020;

Organic growth in loans of  $727.5 million, or 5.0% (and $1.4 billion, or 10.5%, exclusive of loans under the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP loans”)), during 2021;

Adjusted return on average assets of 1.69%, compared with 1.56% in 2020;

Adjusted return on average tangible common equity of 20.19%, compared with 19.77% in 2020;

Growth in tangible book value of 10.8%, or $2.57 per share, to $26.26 at December 31, 2021, compared with $23.69 at December 31, 2020; and

Continued growth in noninterest bearing deposits, representing 39.54% of total deposits, up from 36.27% at December 31, 2020.
Adjusted return on average assets, adjusted return on average tangible common equity and tangible book value are performance measures determined by methods other than in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America (“GAAP”). See “Reconciliation of GAAP and Non-GAAP Financial Measures” in Exhibit A to this Proxy Statement for a reconciliation to 2021 GAAP results.
Director Nominees
At the Annual Meeting, shareholders are being asked to elect each of the director nominees identified below to serve as a director until the 2023 Annual Meeting and until his or her successor is duly elected and qualified.
Name
Age
Ameris
Director
Since
Primary Occupation
Independent
William I. Bowen, Jr.
57
November 2014
Partner and President of Bowen Donaldson Home for Funerals
Rodney D. Bullard
47
July 2019
Vice President of Community Affairs of Chick-fil-A, Inc.;
Executive Director of Chick-fil-A Foundation
Wm. Millard Choate
69
July 2019
Founder and Chairman of Choate Construction Company
R. Dale Ezzell
72
May 2010
Founder and Owner of Wisecards Printing and Mailing
Leo J. Hill
66
January 2013
Founder and Owner of Advisor Network Solutions, LLC
Daniel B. Jeter
70
April 1997
Chairman and Co-Owner of Standard Discount Corporation
 
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Name
Age
Ameris
Director
Since
Primary Occupation
Independent
Robert P. Lynch
58
February 2000
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Lynch Management Company
Elizabeth A. McCague
72
August 2016
Chief Financial Officer for Jacksonville Port Authority
James B. Miller, Jr.
82
July 2019
Chairman of the Ameris Board of Directors
Gloria A. O’Neal
72
July 2019
Community Leader
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr.
54
July 2019
Chief Executive Officer of Ameris and the Bank
William H. Stern
65
November 2013
President and Chief Executive Officer of Stern & Stern and Associates
Jimmy D. Veal
73
May 2008
Founding Partner and Co-Owner of Beachview Tent Rentals, Inc.
Corporate Governance and Executive Compensation Program Highlights
Our corporate governance and executive compensation policies promote the long-term interests of shareholders. Below are highlights of our corporate governance and executive compensation framework.
Corporate Governance
Executive Compensation

Annual Election of All Directors

Pay for Performance Philosophy

Approximately 85% of Board Members are Independent

Independent Compensation Consultant Engaged by Compensation Committee

Strong Independent Lead Director of the Board

Annual Advisory Votes on Executive Compensation

Independent Audit, Compensation, Corporate Governance and Nominating, and Enterprise Risk Committees of the Board

Risk Oversight by Board and Committees, Including Enterprise Risk Committee

No Supermajority Voting Requirements in Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws

Limits Imposed on Maximum Incentive Award Payouts

Formalized Annual Board and Committee Self-Assessments and Director Assessments

Stock Ownership Requirements for Named Executive Officers and Directors

Majority Voting for Directors in Uncontested Elections

Insider Trading Policy Prohibits Hedging and Short Sales

All Directors Attended at Least 75% of 2021 Meetings

Director Continuing Education

Regular Executive Sessions of Independent Directors

No Poison Pill in Effect
 
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PROXY SOLICITATION AND VOTING INFORMATION
Why am I receiving these materials?
The Board has made these materials available to you on the internet or, upon your request, has delivered printed versions of these materials to you by mail, in connection with the solicitation of proxies by and on behalf of the Board for use at the Annual Meeting. The Annual Meeting will be held virtually, via live audio webcast at https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX, on Thursday, June 9, 2022, commencing at 9:30 a.m. ET.
These materials will be first made available to shareholders on or about April 25, 2022. Shareholders of the Company are invited to attend the Annual Meeting and are requested to vote on the proposals described in this Proxy Statement.
What is included in these materials?
These materials include:

The Company’s Proxy Statement for the Annual Meeting; and

The 2021 Annual Report, which includes the Company’s audited consolidated financial statements.
If you request printed versions of these materials by mail, then these materials will also include the proxy card for the Annual Meeting.
Why did I receive a one-page notice in the mail or e-mail notification regarding the internet availability of proxy materials instead of a full set of proxy materials?
Pursuant to rules adopted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”), the Company has provided access to its proxy materials over the internet. Accordingly, the Company is sending a Notice of Internet Availability of Proxy Materials. All shareholders will have the ability to access the proxy materials on the website referred to in the Notice, free of charge, or request to receive a printed set of the proxy materials. Instructions on how to access the proxy materials over the internet or to request a printed copy may be found in the Notice. In addition, shareholders may request to receive proxy materials electronically by e-mail on an ongoing basis.
How can I get electronic access to the proxy materials?
The Notice provides you with instructions regarding how to:

View proxy materials for the Annual Meeting on the internet and execute a proxy; and

Instruct the Company to send future proxy materials to you electronically by e-mail.
Choosing to receive future proxy materials by e-mail will save the Company the cost of printing and mailing documents to you and will reduce the impact of its annual meetings on the environment. If you choose to receive future proxy materials by e-mail, then you will receive an e-mail next year with instructions containing a link to those materials and a link to the proxy voting site. Your election to receive proxy materials by e-mail will remain in effect until you terminate it.
What is being voted on at the Annual Meeting?
Shareholders are being asked to vote on each of the following proposals:

To elect each of the 13 director nominees named in this Proxy Statement to serve as a director until the 2023 Annual Meeting and until his or her successor is duly elected and qualified (Proposal 1);

To ratify the appointment of KPMG as our independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022 (Proposal 2); and
 
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To approve, on an advisory basis, the compensation of our named executive officers (Proposal 3).
In addition to the above matters, we will transact any other business that may properly come before the Annual Meeting or any adjournment or postponement thereof. As of the date of this Proxy Statement, the Board knows of no other matters that will be brought before the Annual Meeting.
You may not cumulate your votes for any matter being voted on at the Annual Meeting, and you are not entitled to appraisal or dissenters’ rights.
Who can vote?
You may vote if you were a shareholder of record of the Common Stock as of the close of business on March 31, 2022, the Record Date for the Annual Meeting. Your shares can be voted at the Annual Meeting only if you are present or represented by a valid proxy. As of the Record Date, there were 69,439,084 shares of Common Stock outstanding and entitled to vote.
If you are a beneficial owner of the Common stock as of the close of business on the Record Date, then you will receive voting instructions from the bank, broker or other nominee that holds your shares as the holder of record. You must follow the voting instructions of the holder of record in order for your shares to be voted.
How many votes am I entitled to?
Each share of Common Stock represented at the Annual Meeting is entitled to one vote for each director nominee with respect to the proposal to elect directors and one vote for each of the other proposals to be voted on.
How do I vote?
If you are a record holder, then you may vote by proxy or in person at the Annual Meeting at https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX.
To vote by proxy, you may select one of the following options:

Over the internet, which you are encouraged to do if you have access to the internet;

By telephone; or

For those shareholders who request to receive a paper proxy card in the mail, by completing, signing and returning the proxy card.
The Notice provides instructions on how to access your proxy card, which contains instructions on how to vote via the internet or by telephone. For those shareholders who request to receive a paper proxy card in the mail, instructions for voting via the internet, by telephone or by mail are set forth on the proxy card. Please follow the directions on your proxy card carefully.
If you are a beneficial owner, then you will receive voting instructions from the bank, broker or other nominee that holds your shares as the holder of record. You must follow the voting instructions of the holder of record in order for your shares to be voted. Although most banks, brokers and other nominees will offer telephone and internet voting, availability and specific procedures will depend on their voting arrangements. Please follow their voting instructions carefully.
How do I attend and vote at the Annual Meeting?
The Annual Meeting will be held virtually, via live audio webcast. To access the Annual Meeting, visit the virtual meeting site at https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX. To be deemed present and to have the ability to vote during the Annual Meeting, you will be required to enter your control number.
If you are a shareholder of record, then your control number can be found on the proxy card or the Notice you previously received.
 
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If you are a beneficial owner, then you must register in advance to attend and vote at the Annual Meeting. To register, you must obtain a legally valid proxy from your broker, bank or other nominee and present it to our transfer agent, Computershare. Once you have received a valid proxy from your broker, bank or other nominee, you must email it to Computershare at legalproxy@computershare.com with “Legal Proxy — Ameris Bancorp” in the subject line. Please include with your email proof from your broker, bank or other nominee of your valid proxy reflecting your holdings of Common Stock (e.g., a forwarded email from your broker, bank or other nominee with your valid proxy attached, or an image of your valid proxy attached to your email). Requests for registration must be received by Computershare no later than 5:00 p.m. ET on June 6, 2022. You will then receive by email from Computershare a confirmation of your registration, with a control number for use in accessing the virtual meeting website.
Once you are admitted to the Annual Meeting, you may vote during the Annual Meeting by following the instructions on the virtual meeting site.
Online access to the virtual meeting site will open at 9:15 a.m. ET on June 9, to allow time for you to log in and test your device’s audio system.
What if I have technical difficulties attending the Annual Meeting?
The virtual meeting platform is fully supported across most internet browsers (Microsoft Edge, Firefox, Chrome and Safari) and devices (desktops, laptops, tablets and cell phones) running the most up-to-date version of applicable software and plug-ins. Shareholders should ensure that they have a sufficient internet connection wherever they intend to participate in the meeting.
For further assistance, you may call 1-888-724-2416 (toll free) or 1-781-575-2748 (international toll).
Can I change my mind after I vote?
If you are a shareholder of record and vote by proxy, then you may revoke that proxy at any time before it is voted at the Annual Meeting. You may do this by using one of the following methods:

Voting again by telephone or over the internet prior to 9:30 a.m. ET on June 9, 2022;

Giving written notice to the Company’s Corporate Secretary at 3490 Piedmont Road N.E., Suite 1550, Atlanta, Georgia 30305;

Delivering a later-dated proxy; or

By attending the Annual Meeting (by visiting https://meetnow.global/MHTUYYX and entering your control number) and following the voting instructions on the virtual meeting site.
If you are a beneficial owner, then you must follow the instructions provided by the bank, broker or other nominee that holds your shares as the holder of record if you wish to change or revoke your vote.
How many votes must be present to hold the Annual Meeting?
In order for the Company to conduct the Annual Meeting, the holders of a majority of the shares of Common Stock outstanding and entitled to vote as of the Record Date must be present or represented by proxy at the Annual Meeting. This is referred to as a quorum.
Shares represented by valid proxies received but marked as abstentions, and shares represented by valid proxies received but reflecting broker non-votes (further discussed below), will be counted as present at the Annual Meeting for purposes of establishing a quorum.
What are broker non-votes?
Under certain circumstances, including the election of directors, matters involving executive compensation and other matters considered non-routine, banks and brokers are prohibited from exercising discretionary authority for beneficial owners who have not provided voting instructions to the bank or broker. This is generally referred to as a “broker non-vote.” In these cases, as long as a routine matter is also being voted on, and in cases where the shareholder does not vote on such routine matter,
 
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those shares will be counted for the purpose of determining if a quorum is present, but will not be included as votes cast with respect to those matters. Whether a bank or broker has authority to vote its shares on uninstructed matters is determined by stock exchange rules. We expect that brokers will be allowed to exercise discretionary authority for beneficial owners who have not provided voting instructions only with respect to Proposal 3 but not with respect to any of the other proposals to be voted on at the Annual Meeting.
What is the vote required to elect directors and to adopt each of the other proposals?
The following chart describes the proposals to be considered at the Annual Meeting, the vote required to elect directors and to adopt each of the other proposals, and the manner in which votes will be counted:
Proposal
Voting
Options
Vote Required to Elect
Directors or to
Adopt Proposal
Effect of
Abstentions
Effect of
Broker
Non-votes
Election of Directors
(Proposal 1)
For, Against or Abstain with respect to each director nominee A majority of votes cast (meaning the number of shares voted “For” a director nominee must exceed the votes cast “Against” such director nominee)* No effect No effect
Ratification of the Appointment of KPMG (Proposal 2) For, Against or Abstain Affirmative vote of the holders of a majority of the stock having voting power present in person or represented by proxy at the Annual Meeting Same effect as a vote “Against” Brokers have discretion to vote
Approval, on an Advisory Basis, of the Compensation of Our Named Executive Officers
(Proposal 3)
For, Against or Abstain Affirmative vote of the holders of a majority of the stock having voting power present in person or represented by proxy at the Annual Meeting Same effect as a vote “Against” No effect
*
See “Matters To Be Voted On — Proposal 1 — Election of Directors” for a further description of the vote required to elect directors.
What if my shares are registered in more than one person’s name?
If you own shares that are registered in the name of more than one person, then each person must sign the proxy. If an attorney, executor, administrator, trustee, guardian or any other person signs the proxy in a representative capacity, then the full title of the person signing the proxy should be given and a certificate should be furnished showing evidence of appointment.
What does it mean if I receive more than one Notice?
If you receive more than one Notice, then you have multiple accounts with brokers or the Company’s transfer agent. Please vote all of these shares. It is recommended that you contact your broker or the Company’s transfer agent, Computershare, as applicable, to consolidate as many accounts as possible under the same name and address. Computershare may be contacted by telephone at (800) 568-3476.
 
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How are proxies solicited and what is the cost?
The cost of preparing and mailing proxy materials will be borne by the Company. We have engaged Georgeson LLC to assist with the solicitation of proxies for an annual fee of  $10,000 plus expenses. In addition to solicitation by internet or mail, solicitations may be made by directors, officers and other employees of the Company in person or by telephone, facsimile or e-mail without additional compensation. The Company may also solicit proxies through press releases and postings on its website at www.amerisbank.com. Brokerage houses, custodians, nominees and fiduciaries will be reimbursed for the expense of sending proxy materials to the beneficial owners of Common Stock held of record on behalf of such persons.
 
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MATTERS TO BE VOTED ON
Proposal 1 — Election of Directors
The Board is asking that our shareholders elect each of the 13 director nominees identified in the table below to serve as a director until the 2023 Annual Meeting and until his or her successor is duly elected and qualified. See “Board of Directors — Board Members” for more information regarding each of the director nominees.
The Company requires majority voting in uncontested director elections, which is an election in which the number of nominees for director is less than or equal to the number of directors to be elected. As a result, each director will be elected by a majority of the votes cast at the Annual Meeting, meaning that the number of shares voted “For” a director nominee must exceed the votes cast “Against” such director nominee.
If an incumbent director does not receive a greater number of such shares voted “For” such director than the number of such shares voted “Against” such director, then the Company requires that such director must tender his or her resignation to the Board, the effectiveness of which shall be conditioned upon, and subject to, acceptance by the Board. In that situation, the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee would make a recommendation to the Board about whether to accept or reject the resignation, or whether to take other action. Within 90 days from the date the election results are certified, the Board will act on the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee’s recommendation and will publicly disclose its decision and the rationale behind it.
In a contested election, which is an election in which the number of nominees for director is greater than the number of directors to be elected, director nominees are elected by a plurality of the votes cast.
The following table provides summary information about each director nominee, all of whom currently serve on our Board:
Name
Age
Ameris
Director
Since
Primary Occupation
AC
CC
NC
EC
ERC
CRC
TC
William I. Bowen, Jr.*
57
November 
2014
Partner and President of Bowen Donaldson Home for Funerals
Rodney D. Bullard*
47
July 2019
Vice President of Community Affairs of Chick-fil-A, Inc.;
Executive Director of Chick-fil-A Foundation
Wm. Millard Choate*
69
July 2019
Founder and Chairman of Choate Construction Company
CH
R. Dale Ezzell*
72
May 2010
Founder and Owner of Wisecards Printing and Mailing
CH
Leo J. Hill*
66
January 
2013
Founder and Owner of Advisor Network Solutions, LLC
CH
Daniel B. Jeter*
70
April 1997
Chairman and Co-Owner of Standard Discount Corporation
Robert P. Lynch*
58
February 
2000
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Lynch Management Company
CH
FE
Elizabeth A. McCague*
72
August 2016
Chief Financial Officer for Jacksonville Port Authority
CH
James B. Miller, Jr.
82
July 2019
Chairman of the Ameris Board of Directors
Gloria A. O’Neal*
72
July 2019
Community Leader
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr.
54
July 2019
Chief Executive Officer of Ameris and the Bank
CH
William H. Stern*
65
November 
2013
President and Chief Executive Officer of Stern & Stern and Associates
CH
Jimmy D. Veal*
73
May 2008
Founding Partner and Co-Owner of Beachview Tent Rentals, Inc.
 
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* Independent
AC = Audit Committee Member
CC = Compensation Committee Member
NC = Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee Member
EC = Executive Committee
ERC =Enterprise Risk Committee
CRC = Credit Risk Committee
TC = Trust Committee
CH = Committee Chair
FE = Audit Committee Financial Expert
Proxies cannot be voted at the Annual Meeting for a greater number of persons than the number of director nominees named above.
Unless otherwise directed, the persons named as proxies in the enclosed form of proxy intend to vote “FOR” the election of each director nominee. If any such nominee for any reason should not be available as a candidate for director, then votes will be cast pursuant to authority granted by the enclosed proxy for such other candidate or candidates as may be nominated by the Board. The Board is unaware of a nominee who is unable to serve as a director or will decline to serve as a director, if elected.
The Board recommends a vote “FOR” the election of the nominated directors. Proxies will be voted “FOR” the election of the director nominees named above unless otherwise specified.
Proposal 2 — Ratification of the Appointment of Our Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm
The Company has appointed KPMG as its independent registered public accounting firm for the current fiscal year, which ends December 31, 2022. Our shareholders are being asked to ratify such appointment at the Annual Meeting. In view of the difficulty and expense involved in changing our independent registered public accounting firm on short notice, should the shareholders not ratify the selection of KPMG, it is contemplated that the appointment of KPMG for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022 will stand unless the Board finds other appropriate reasons for making a change. Disapproval by the shareholders will be considered a recommendation that the Board select another independent registered public accounting firm for the following fiscal year.
Representatives of KPMG (our independent registered public accounting firm for the current fiscal year as well as for the most recently completed fiscal year) are expected to be present at the Annual Meeting, will have the opportunity to make a statement if they desire to do so and will be available to respond to appropriate questions by shareholders submitted in accordance with the procedures discussed under “Proxy Statement Summary — Shareholder Questions.”
The Board recommends that you vote “FOR” the ratification of the appointment of KPMG LLP as our independent registered public accounting firm for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2022. Proxies will be voted “FOR” the ratification of this appointment unless otherwise specified.
Proposal 3 — Advisory Approval of the Compensation of Our Named Executive Officers
With this Proposal 3, our shareholders are being asked to provide advisory approval of the 2021 compensation of the Company’s named executive officers, as it is described under “Executive Compensation.” This proposal, commonly known as a “say-on-pay” proposal, gives each shareholder the opportunity to endorse or not endorse the Company’s executive compensation program. This vote is not intended to address any specific item of compensation, but rather the overall compensation of the named executive officers and the philosophy, policies and practices described in this Proxy Statement. While this vote is advisory and not binding on the Company, it will provide the Company with information regarding investor sentiment about its executive compensation philosophy, policies and practices, which
 
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the Compensation Committee will be able to consider when determining executive compensation for the remainder of fiscal 2022 and beyond.
In response to the voting results for the frequency of the “say-on-pay” vote at the Company’s 2018 Annual Meeting of Shareholders, shareholders are being given the opportunity to provide a “say-on-pay” advisory vote on an annual basis. In 2021, over 59 million shares of Common Stock were voted on the shareholder “say-on-pay” resolution, with approximately 98% of all such votes cast in favor of the executive officer compensation program described in the Company’s 2021 proxy statement.
The Company believes that its executive compensation policies and procedures are competitive, focused on pay-for-performance principles, strongly aligned with the long-term interests of our shareholders and designed to attract and retain the talent needed to drive shareholder value and help the Company meet or exceed its financial and performance targets. The Company also believes that the compensation of its named executive officers for 2021 reflected the Company’s financial results for 2021. The Company employs an executive compensation program for its senior executives that emphasizes long-term compensation, with a significant portion weighted toward equity awards. This approach strongly aligns senior executive compensation with the interest of our shareholders. Accordingly, shareholders are being asked to vote on the following resolution to be presented at the Annual Meeting:
RESOLVED, that the holders of the Common Stock hereby approve the compensation of the named executive officers as described in this Proxy Statement under “Executive Compensation,” including the “Compensation Discussion and Analysis,” the compensation tables and related material.”
The vote by the shareholders will be a non-binding, advisory vote, meaning that the voting results will not be binding on the Company, the Compensation Committee or the Board or overrule or affect any previous action or decision by the Compensation Committee or the Board or any compensation previously paid or awarded. However, the Compensation Committee and the Board will take the voting results into account when determining executive compensation matters in the future.
The Board recommends that you vote “FOR” the approval of the compensation of our named executive officers as set forth in this Proxy Statement under “Executive Compensation,” including the “Compensation Discussion and Analysis,” the compensation tables and related material. Proxies will be voted “FOR” the approval of the compensation of our named executive officers unless otherwise specified.
 
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GOVERNANCE
Director Independence
Each member of the Board, other than Messrs. Miller and Proctor, is “independent,” as defined for purposes of the rules of the SEC and the listing standards of The Nasdaq Stock Market (“Nasdaq”). For a director to be considered independent, the Board must determine that the director does not have a relationship with the Company that would interfere with the exercise of independent judgment in carrying out the responsibilities of a director. In making this determination, the Board will consider all relevant facts and circumstances, including any transactions or relationships between the director and the Company or its subsidiaries.
Board Leadership Structure and Role in Risk Oversight
The Company is committed to having sound corporate governance principles and practices, and independent board oversight is valued as an essential component of our corporate governance framework. Our commitment to independent oversight is demonstrated by the fact that all of our directors, except our Chairman and our Chief Executive Officer, are independent. In addition, all of the members of the Audit Committee, Compensation Committee, Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee, and Enterprise Risk Committee are independent.
Messrs. Miller and Proctor became our Chairman and our Chief Executive Officer, respectively, on July 1, 2019, upon the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity Southern Corporation (“Fidelity”). In connection with Mr. Miller’s appointment as Chairman, the Board also appointed a Lead Independent Director in furtherance of the Board’s belief that strong, independent board leadership is a critical aspect of effective corporate governance. Mr. Jeter served as Lead Independent Director from July 2019 to September 2019, and Mr. Hill has served as Lead Independent Director since September 2019. The Lead Independent Director, who must be independent, presides over executive sessions of the independent directors, consults as appropriate with the Chairman or the Chief Executive Officer, oversees the flow of information to the Board and acts as liaison between the non-employee directors and management. The Lead Independent Director also serves as a focal point for the independent directors, thereby enhancing and clarifying the Board’s independence from management.
The Board believes that having a separate Chairman and Chief Executive Officer provides a depth of dependable, decisive and experienced leadership to execute the Company’s strategy. While the Board believes that having these separate, although non-independent roles, together with an engaged and experienced Lead Independent Director, is the most appropriate leadership structure for the Board at this time, the Board retains the flexibility to revise this structure in the future based upon its assessment of the Company’s needs, including consideration of relevant governance and strategic matters.
The Enterprise Risk Committee is primarily responsible for overseeing the Company’s risk management processes on behalf of the full Board, although the Board and all of its committees are sensitive to risks relating to the Company and its operations. Through its interaction with the Company’s Chief Risk Officer, the Enterprise Risk Committee oversees credit risk, market risk (including liquidity and interest rate risk) and operational risk (including compliance and legal risk). The Enterprise Risk Committee is also responsible for overseeing the Company’s information technology and cybersecurity awareness and posture. Executive and senior information technology management provide regular updates to the Enterprise Risk Committee and to the Board, no less frequently than each quarter. The Audit Committee focuses on financial reporting risk, oversees the entire audit function and evaluates the effectiveness of internal and external audit efforts. It receives reports from management regularly regarding the Company’s assessment of the adequacy and effectiveness of internal control systems. Our external auditors meet at least quarterly with the Audit Committee in executive session to discuss potential risk and control issues involving the Company. Our Chief Risk Officer meets with both the Enterprise Risk Committee and the Audit Committee as necessary to discuss potential risk or control issues. The Enterprise Risk Committee and the Audit Committee report regularly to the full Board, which also considers the Company’s entire risk profile, including additional strategic and reputational risks. While the Board oversees the Company’s risk management, management is responsible for the
 
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day-to-day risk management processes. We believe that this division of responsibility is the most effective approach for addressing the risks facing the Company; however, we will continue to re-examine our Board leadership structure on a regular basis, recognizing that different structures may be appropriate in different situations faced by the Company.
Director Nomination Process and Diversity
With respect to the nomination process, the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee reviews the composition and size of the Board to ensure that it has the proper expertise and independence; determines the criteria for the selection of Board members and Board committee members; plans for continuity on the Board as existing Board members retire or rotate off the Board; establishes criteria for qualifications as independent directors, consistent with applicable laws and listing standards; reviews Board candidates recommended by shareholders in compliance with all director nomination procedures for shareholders; and recommends to the Board the slate of nominees of directors to be elected by the shareholders and any directors to be elected by the Board to fill vacancies.
The Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee has not established specific minimum age, education, years of business experience or specific types of skills for potential candidates but, in general, expects qualified candidates will have ample experience and a proven record of business success and leadership. Director candidates will be evaluated based on their financial literacy, business acumen and experience, special or unique skills, areas of expertise, independence for purposes of compliance with SEC and Nasdaq rules and willingness, ability and availability for service. In addition, the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee requires that each Board candidate have the highest personal and professional ethics, integrity and values, including respectfulness, honesty and a commitment to teamwork and high standards consistent with the core values of the Company, and consistently exercise sound and objective business judgment. It is also anticipated that the Board as a whole has individuals with significant appropriate senior management or other leadership experience, a long-term and strategic perspective and the ability to advance constructive debate.
The Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee has not adopted a formal policy with regard to the consideration of diversity in identifying director nominees. In determining whether to recommend a director nominee, the members of the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee consider and discuss diversity, among other factors, with a view toward the role and needs of the Board as a whole. When identifying and recommending director nominees, the members of the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee generally view diversity expansively to include, without limitation, concepts such as race, gender, national origin, differences of viewpoint and perspective, professional experience, education, skill and other qualities or attributes that together contribute to the functioning of the Board. The Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee believes that the inclusion of diversity as one of many factors considered in selecting director nominees is consistent with the goal of creating a Board that best serves the needs of the Company and the interests of its shareholders. At present, 23% percent of our current directors self-identify as Black or African American, Hispanic or Latinx, Asian, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, two or more races or ethnicities, or as LGBTQ+. Additionally, 15% of our directors self-identify as female. The following table provides information about the diversity of the Board in a standardized matrix as required by Nasdaq Rule 5606:
 
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Board Diversity Matrix
(As of March 31, 2022)
Bowen
Bullard
Choate
Ezzell
Hill
Jeter
Lynch
McCague
Miller
O’Neal
Proctor
Stern
Veal
Total Number of Directors — 13
Tenure and Independence
Tenure (years)
7
3
3
12
9
25
22
6
3
3
3
8
14
Independence
Demographics
Age
57
47
69
72
66
70
58
72
82
72
54
65
73
Gender Identity
 M
 M
 M
 M
 M
 M
 M
 F
 M
 F
 M
 M
 M
African American or Black
Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
White
The Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee has performed a review of the experience, qualifications, attributes and skills of the Company’s current directors and nominees and believes that such persons possess a variety of complementary skills and characteristics, including the following:

Personal characteristics, including leadership, character, integrity, accountability, sound business judgment and personal reputation;

Successful business or professional experience;

Various areas of expertise or experience, including financial, strategic and general management;

Expertise or experience in various industries, including banking and financial services, hospitality, construction, consumer finance, automotive, real estate, timber, agricultural and mediation services, as well as with various non-profit organizations;

Residence in the Bank’s market areas;

Willingness and ability to commit the necessary time to fully discharge the responsibilities of a director in connection with the affairs of the Company; and

A demonstrated commitment to the success of the Company.
For a discussion of the specific backgrounds and qualifications of our current directors and director nominees, see “Board of Directors — Board Members.”
Although the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee has authority to retain a search firm or consultant to assist in identifying director candidates, to date no such search firm or consultant has been engaged. Additionally, the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee would consider any director candidate proposed by any shareholder of record who has given timely written notice to the Corporate Secretary as required by Article III, Section 2(b) of the Company’s Bylaws. The proposing shareholder’s notice to the Corporate Secretary must set forth the information required by such section, including the director candidate’s name, credentials, contact information and his or her consent to be considered as a director candidate, as well as the proposing shareholder’s own contact information and a statement of his or her share ownership (how many shares held and for how long). To be timely, a proposing shareholder’s notice must be received at the Company’s principal executive office no later than the date determined in accordance with the Company’s Bylaws. There are no differences in the manner in which the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee evaluates director candidates it identifies and candidates who are recommended for nomination for membership on the Board by a shareholder.
 
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Communicating with the Board and its Committees
Our shareholders may communicate with the Board by directing correspondence to the Board, any of its committees or one or more individual members, in care of the Corporate Secretary, Ameris Bancorp, 3490 Piedmont Road N.E., Suite 1550, Atlanta, Georgia 30305. The Corporate Secretary will forward such correspondence to the persons to whom it is addressed.
Director Reviews and Education
The Board conducts a self-assessment annually, and individual directors are separately evaluated each year in connection with director performance reviews. The Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee reviews and discusses with the Board the results of these annual assessments.
Director education is an essential component of good governance and effective compliance practices for financial institutions. It increases the likelihood of retaining good directors and attracting more highly skilled candidates to serve on the boards of banks. The Board’s regular meetings often include an educational and strategic session focused on a variety of topics, such as legislative and regulatory developments, important banking industry trends and fundamental bank directorship knowledge. In addition, our Chief Legal Officer updates the Board as appropriate on relevant developments with respect to corporate governance matters.
Reflecting our commitment to principles of director education, in 2021, directors participated in educational seminars in corporate governance and financial reporting. Additionally, all directors completed required in-house compliance training during 2021, where topics included BSA/AML and compliance, cybersecurity and related threats, fair lending and Regulation O.
 
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ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND GOVERNANCE MATTERS
Oversight
The Board has delegated to the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee responsibility for oversight of the Company’s social, environmental and sustainability initiatives. Additionally, the Company has formed an ESG Management Committee at the Bank level to evaluate and consider risk and opportunities related to such initiatives. The ESG Management Committee regularly provides to the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee updates on the Company’s efforts with respect to environmental, social and governance matters, as well as more specifically on employee engagement, support and growth opportunities, and efforts to improve diversity and inclusion.
Strategy
We believe in the potential of our communities, neighbors and employees. We are committed to creating positive change. The Company proudly supports community engagement and sustainability initiatives across the Southeast and makes investing and growing a talented, diverse and inclusive team a key priority.
Investing in a Sustainable Future
The Bank’s mortgage and technology teams have created automated and scalable, electronic and robotic solutions to maximize efficiencies and human capital engagement. The Bank continues to convert thousands of customers to e-statements, online banking, mobile banking and other digital offerings. At the new Ameris headquarters, which opened in July 2020, LED lighting is used, and with the support of a third-party energy consultant, the Company has further plans to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gases across all facilities.
Building a Better Community
The Company and its employees passionately give time, talents and resources to support our communities, with efforts focused on improving educational equality, housing affordability and the overall health and wellbeing of those within the community. In 2021, the Bank gave over $2.5 million to philanthropic and civic organizations. The Bank made 29,181 home loans. We are proud of our efforts to make homeownership a reality for 8,989 first-time homebuyers; 5,102 buyers through Veterans Affairs, Fair Housing Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture programs; and 625 buyers through down payment assistance programs. The Company funded a total of  $1.3 billion in home loans to borrowers of low-to-moderate income.
Advancing Our Teammates
Our employees are energetic, dynamic team players and problem-solvers who are committed to going the extra mile. Ameris supports our culture of learning and dedication to our teammates by offering leadership development, numerous health and wellness programs, mentorship, tuition reimbursement and career pathways. We are committed to empowering our people, diversifying our teams and building inclusion throughout our organization.
Human Capital Management
At Ameris, we consider our teammates to be our greatest strength. At December 31, 2021, the Company employed 2,865 full-time-equivalent employees, primarily located in our core markets of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Employee Engagement
We take pride in listening to our employees, welcoming unique perspectives, supporting personal and professional growth and developing natural strengths. For example, each year the Company
 
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administers an employee engagement survey to gather meaningful insights and data, which is used as we continue to make improvements at the Company and build upon our strong culture. The input obtained from these surveys helps the Board and executive officers to execute on initiatives such as the Ameris Bank Foundation, leadership training and diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Effective and frequent communication is critical to supporting our growing culture and teammate needs and is carried out through regular e-newsletters, executive announcements and bulletins, which provide access to information regarding Company news, alerts and updates, as well as educational opportunities and programs.
Support and Benefits
Providing employees with meaningful, competitive and supportive benefits to care for their lives and families is a top priority for the Company. We’re proud to offer a comprehensive benefits package that includes medical, dental, vision and life insurance, paid time-off, 401(k) profit-sharing plan participation and an employee stock purchase plan. The Company’s 401(k) plan matches 50% of each employee’s elective deferral amount, up to the first 6% of the contribution.
The Company’s benefits programs also include access to a network of nearby providers with options for either in-person care or virtual visits at any time. Our behavioral health benefit offers support for such issues as alcohol and drug use recovery, medication management, coping with grief and loss, and depression, anxiety and stress management.
Personal and Professional Growth
At the Company, our leaders develop action plans and provide mentorship to help employees reach their aspirations. Our teammates are encouraged to share their goals and dreams, and we take pride in offering professional growth opportunities through our robust learning and development initiatives.
Mentorship at all levels is encouraged throughout our organization, as it supports our culture of learning and commitment to our teammates, new ideas and leadership development. Mentor Ameris is the Bank’s formal mentorship program, whereby annually, high potential colleagues are identified as mentees and paired with a selected mentor at the Bank. A total of 26 mentees were selected to participate in the program in 2021, of which 42% were female and 31% were minorities. The program is a nine-month commitment that is designed to encourage a lifelong mentee-mentor relationship.
Launched at the end of 2020, our Leadership Development Program is a self-paced, three-tiered program available to all employees, with coursework specific to leading self, leading others and leading leaders. We believe that effective and meaningful leadership development will further elevate the Company and support us in continuing to attract and retain top talent. At the end of 2021, we had a total of 185 teammates enrolled in the program, of which 74% were female and 30% were minorities.
The development of our employees’ skills and knowledge is critical to the success of the Company. Our educational assistance program, which provides for reimbursement of certain education expenses up to $5,250, encourages personal development through formal education, such as a degree, licensing or certification, so that teammates can maintain and improve their skills or knowledge related to their current job or foreseeable-future position at Ameris. The importance of having career development discussions and guidance with employees is shared and reinforced during manager training sessions as well, as the Company recognizes these discussions are critical to establishing pathways for career growth.
Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity, equity and inclusion represent an integral part of our strategic vision at Ameris. The Company is committed to fostering an equitable work environment that seeks to ensure fair treatment, equality of opportunity, and fairness in access to information and resources for all employees. We believe this is only possible in an environment built on respect and equal dignity, and we believe inclusion builds a culture of belonging by actively inviting the contribution and participation of all people.
 
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As part of that commitment, the Bank appointed its first Diversity and Inclusion Officer in 2020 and established a Diversity Task Force comprised of a diverse group of 19 teammates from across the Company. This group is dedicated to cultivating an environment that supports our strategy to engage, recruit, develop, retain and advance a diverse team of talent, inclusively and equitably. Leaders from this group have established employee resource groups which are meant to bring teammates together from across the Company and offer strong networking opportunities and a forum to listen and to discuss and sponsor programs, activities and empowering resources that foster diversity and inclusion education and awareness. Employee resource groups currently include women in banking, LGBTQIA+, veterans, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), multigenerational, caregivers and mindfulness-mental health.
As of December 31, 2021, females represent 66% of the Company’s employee population, and minorities represent 31%. In addition, females represent 43% of the Company’s senior management staff, consisting of Vice Presidents and above, and minorities represent 16%.
 
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BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Board Members
The Company’s Bylaws provide that the Board will consist of not fewer than seven directors nor more than 15 directors. We currently have 13 directors, each of whom has been recommended by the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee, and nominated by the Board, for election as a director at the Annual Meeting.
The following information about each director (and director nominee) includes such individual’s business experience, director positions held currently or at any time during the last five years, and the experiences, qualifications attributes or skills that caused the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee and our Board to determine that such individual should be nominated to serve as a director.
WILLIAM I. BOWEN, JR.
[MISSING IMAGE: ph_williambowen-4c.jpg]
Age: 57
Ameris Bancorp director since
November 2014
Ameris Bank director since
November 2014
Board Committees:
Credit Risk
Trust
Mr. Bowen resides in our Tifton, Georgia market, and he currently serves as Chairman of the community board of the Bank for that market. He has served as a member of the community board since 2012. Mr. Bowen is a partner and the President of Bowen Donaldson Home for Funerals. He also serves as managing partner of Bowen Farming Enterprises, LLC, a timber, cattle, cotton and peanut farming operation, Bowen Land and Timber, LLC, Bowen Family Partnership and Fulwood Family Partnership, a farming and real estate development firm. He also serves as Vice Chairman of Tift Regional Medical Center, Chairman of Southwell Ambulatory and Chairman of the Georgia Board of Funeral Service. Mr. Bowen holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Georgia. His extensive business experience and knowledge of the local economy, as well as his expertise in the real estate and farming industries, make Mr. Bowen a valuable resource for the Board.
RODNEY D. BULLARD
[MISSING IMAGE: ph_rodneybullard-4c.jpg]
Age: 47
Ameris Bancorp director since
July 2019
Ameris Bank director since
July 2019
Board Committees:
Compensation
Trust
Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, Mr. Bullard served as a director of Fidelity and Fidelity Bank since 2018. He has served as Corporate Vice President of Community Affairs, Chick-fil-A, Inc. and Executive Director of Chick-fil-A Foundation since 2011. Previously, Mr. Bullard served as Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 2009 to 2011 and as Legislative Liaison/​Counsel in the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force, The Pentagon from 2006 to 2009. Mr. Bullard’s qualifications to serve as director include degrees earned in the Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School; master of business administration degree from Terry College of Business, University of Georgia; and juris doctor degree from Duke Law School, and his various business and legal positions held during his career.
 
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WM. MILLARD CHOATE
[MISSING IMAGE: ph_millardchoate-4c.jpg]
Age: 69
Ameris Bancorp director since
July 2019
Ameris Bank director since
July 2019
Board Committees:
Audit
Credit Risk (Chair)
Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, Mr. Choate served as a director of Fidelity and Fidelity Bank since 2010. Mr. Choate is the founder and currently serves as Chairman of Choate Construction Company, a commercial construction and interior construction firm founded in Atlanta, Georgia in 1989. Mr. Choate holds bachelor’s degrees in economics and business from Vanderbilt University. The experience Mr. Choate received founding his company and establishing all operations, procedures, banking, insurance and bonding relationships, marketing, preconstruction estimating and technology, in addition to his degrees in economics and business, qualify him to serve as a director.
R. DALE EZZELL
[MISSING IMAGE: ph_daleezzell-4c.jpg]
Age: 72
Ameris Bancorp director since May 2010
Ameris Bank director since May 2010
Board Committees:
Audit
Trust (Chair)
Mr. Ezzell served as a director of Southland Bank, formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, from 1983 until the merger of Southland Bank into the Bank in 2006. He also served as Southland Bank’s Chairman from 1995 until such merger. Mr. Ezzell currently serves as Chairman of the Bank’s community board in Dothan, Alabama. Mr. Ezzell is the founder and owner of Wisecards Printing and Mailing, a direct mail advertising business in Abbeville, Alabama. Prior to establishing Wisecards in 2001, he served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Ezzell’s Inc., which operated several department stores in southeast Alabama and southwest Georgia, from 1987 to 2000. Mr. Ezzell holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Auburn University and resides in our Abbeville, Alabama market. His years as a director of a subsidiary bank, along with his varied business and practical experience, give him a valuable understanding of the issues faced by the Company and its customers.
 
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LEO J. HILL
[MISSING IMAGE: ph_leohill-4c.jpg]
Age: 66
Ameris Bancorp director since January 2013
Ameris Bank director since January 2013
Board Committees:
Compensation (Chair)
Corporate Governance and Nominating
Executive
Mr. Hill has served as the Board’s Lead Independent Director since September 2019. Mr. Hill is the founder and owner of Advisor Network Solutions, LLC, a consulting services firm, and he currently serves as Lead Independent Director of Transamerica Mutual Funds. Prior to his service with Transamerica, Mr. Hill held various positions in banking, including Senior Vice President and Senior Loan Administration Officer for Wachovia Bank of Georgia’s southeastern corporate lending unit, President and Chief Executive Officer of Barnett Treasure Coast Florida with Barnett Banks and Market President of Sun Coast Florida with Bank of America. He has a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in finance, both from Georgia State University, and he has completed Louisiana State University’s Graduate School of Banking. With his wide-ranging professional and banking background, he brings a wealth of business and management experience to the Board.
DANIEL B. JETER
[MISSING IMAGE: ph_danieljeter-4c.jpg]
Age: 70
Ameris Bancorp director since April 1997
Ameris Bank director since April 2002
Board Committees:
Compensation
Enterprise Risk
Mr. Jeter served as the Board’s Lead Independent Director from July 2019 to September 2019, and from January 2018 to September 2018. Prior to first serving as Lead Independent Director in 2018, and again in late 2018 through June 2019, he served as Chairman of the Board of the Company and of the board of directors of the Bank from May 2007 through December 2017. He also serves on the community bank board for the Company’s Moultrie, Georgia market. Mr. Jeter is the Chairman and co-owner of Standard Discount Corporation, a family-owned consumer finance company. He joined Standard in 1979 and is an officer and director of each of Standard’s affiliates, including Colquitt Loan Company, Globe Loan Company of Hazelhurst, Globe Loan Company of Tifton, Globe Loan Company of Moultrie, Peach Finance Company, Personal Finance Service of Statesboro and Globe Financial Services of Thomasville. He is co-owner of Classic Insurance Company and President of Cavalier Insurance Company, both of which are re-insurance companies. Mr. Jeter is also a partner in a real estate partnership that develops owner-occupied commercial properties for office and professional use. He serves as a director and an officer of the Georgia Industrial Loan Corporation and as a director of Allied Business Systems. He received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Georgia. Mr. Jeter’s extensive experience in financial services, with a particular emphasis on lending activities, gives him invaluable insight into, and affords him a greater understanding of, the Company’s operations in his service as a director. As a long-tenured member of the Board, he has been closely involved in the Company’s expansion into new markets in recent years.
 
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ROBERT P. LYNCH
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Age: 58
Ameris Bancorp director since February 2000
Ameris Bank director since February 2006
Board Committees:
Audit (Chair)
Credit Risk
Mr. Lynch is the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Lynch Management Company, which owns and manages seven automobile dealerships located in the Southeast. He has been with Lynch Management Company for more than 30 years. Mr. Lynch’s family also owns and operates Shady Dale Farm, a beef cattle operation located in Shady Dale, Georgia. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida. Mr. Lynch resides in our Jacksonville, Florida market and currently serves as a member of the community board of the Bank for that market. His business experience is extensive and varied, which gives him a firsthand understanding of the challenges faced by not only the Company but also its commercial customers, as well as opportunities available to the Company and its commercial customers. This understanding informs his service as a director and is a key benefit to the Board.
ELIZABETH A. MCCAGUE
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Age: 72
Ameris Bancorp director since August 2016
Ameris Bank director since August 2016
Board Committees:
Corporate Governance and Nominating
Executive
Enterprise Risk (Chair)
Ms. McCague currently serves as Chief Financial Officer for the Jacksonville Port Authority. She previously served as Interim Executive Director and Plan Administrator for the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund, where she was responsible for the management of the $1.6 billion pension portfolio and the administration of benefits. Ms. McCague provides mediation services for resolution of financial disputes through her business, McCague & Company, LLC. Ms. McCague has previously served on the UF Health Hospital Jacksonville board as the chair of the finance committee. She also has previously served as co-chair of the University of Florida Capital Campaign, a six-year, $1.5 billion effort, and chair of the North Florida Bank’s Advisory Board. She was also formerly the Chief Operating Officer of a software development company. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Florida and a master of business administration degree from Jacksonville University. She resides in our Jacksonville, Florida market. Ms. McCague’s business experience is extensive and diverse, which provides valuable insight for the Bank and its customers.
 
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JAMES B. MILLER, JR.
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Age: 82
Ameris Bancorp director since July 2019
Ameris Bank director since July 2019
Board Committees:
Executive
Mr. Miller has served as Chairman of the Board since July 2019. Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, Mr. Miller served as Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity since its inception in 1979. He graduated from Florida State University and Vanderbilt Law School. Mr. Miller served as a civilian army lawyer at Redstone Arsenal Facility in Huntsville, Alabama. He clerked at the Florida Supreme Court and served as Chairman of Ageka Wohnungsbau GmbH in Berlin, Germany, and other family investment companies since 1971. Mr. Miller was elected a director of Fidelity Bank in 1976. He has served on many community boards including serving as Chairman of the Dekalb County pension board for 20 years. He previously served as a director of Interface, Inc. and now serves as a director of American Software, Inc.
Mr. Miller’s employment agreement with the Company provides that Mr. Miller will serve as Chairman and a member of the boards of directors of the Company and the Bank and that any age restrictions relating to membership on such boards shall be waived for Mr. Miller. Accordingly, in connection with the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, the Board determined to exclude Mr. Miller from the Company’s requirement for directors to retire from the Board at the annual meeting of the shareholders following the date that the director reaches age 75.
GLORIA A. O’NEAL
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Age: 72
Ameris Bancorp director since July 2019
Ameris Bank director since July 2019
Board Committees:
Audit
Enterprise Risk
Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, Ms. O’Neal served as director of Fidelity since 2018. Ms. O’Neal is a community leader who brings, unique experience to the Board. She has served on many non-profit boards, including Rotary, and was a Court Appointed Special Advocate for Dekalb County. She currently serves as Treasurer of a preschool in Dahlonega and is active in a number of community outreach activities. She directs a monthly food ministry that benefits the needs of the local community. She a member of Women of Jeremiah’s Place, a non-profit organization providing financial counseling and transitional housing to homeless families. In 2014, after 33 years of service, she retired from Fidelity Bank to pursue her volunteer work. Ms. O’Neal last served at Fidelity Bank as Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer, after having been Internal Auditor. She has extensive experience with risk management, regulatory requirements, credit administration, operations, financial reporting and most aspects of banking. Ms. O’Neal’s extensive banking experience qualifies her to serve as a director.
 
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H. PALMER PROCTOR, JR.
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Age: 54
Ameris Bancorp director since July 2019
Ameris Bank director since July 2019
Board Committees:
Executive (Chair)
Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, Mr. Proctor served as President of Fidelity since April 2006, as Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank since April 2017, as President of Fidelity Bank since October 2004, and as a director of Fidelity Bank since 2004. Mr. Proctor also has served as a director of Brown and Brown, Inc., an independent insurance intermediary, since 2012, and serves as a member of the Advisory Board of Allied Financial and a director of Choate Construction Company. Mr. Proctor also served as Chairman of the Georgia Bankers Association from 2017 to 2018. With experience as an executive of Fidelity and the Company, Mr. Proctor offers expertise in financial services and a unique understanding of our markets, operations and competition, which qualify him to serve as a director.
Mr. Proctor’s employment agreement with the Company provides that Mr. Proctor will serve as a member of the boards of directors of Ameris and the Bank.
WILLIAM H. STERN
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Age: 65
Ameris Bancorp director since November 2013
Ameris Bank director since November 2013
Board Committees:
Compensation
Corporate Governance and Nominating (Chair)
Executive
Mr. Stern has been President and Chief Executive Officer of Stern & Stern and Associates, a real estate development firm doing work throughout the Southeast, since 1980. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board of the South Carolina State Ports Authority and as a member of the board of the South Carolina Coordinating Council for Economic Development. Mr. Stern currently serves as Chairman of the Bank’s community board for the State of South Carolina. His knowledge of the real estate industry, in addition to his extensive business experience and economic background, makes Mr. Stern a valuable resource for the Board.
 
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JIMMY D. VEAL
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Age: 73
Ameris Bancorp director since May 2008
Ameris Bank director since May 2008
Board Committees:
Corporate Governance and Nominating
Credit Risk
Mr. Veal was a founding director of Golden Isles Financial Holdings, Inc., which was the corporate parent of The First Bank of Brunswick prior to its acquisition by the Company and subsequent merger into the Bank. He served as a director of both Golden Isles Financial Holdings, Inc. and The First Bank of Brunswick from their inception in 1989 until their acquisition by the Company in 2001 and as Vice Chairman of both companies from 1996 until 2001. Mr. Veal currently serves as Chairman of the Bank’s community board for the Southeast Georgia Coast. Mr. Veal has been active in the hospitality industry for over 40 years. As a founding partner, together with his family, he co-owned and operated Beachview Tent Rentals, Inc. in Brunswick, Georgia, where he continued to serve as a consultant, until his retirement in 2018. He is also active in various real estate and timberland ventures in Glynn County, Georgia and Camden County, Georgia. In addition to his experience in banking, he has gained knowledge of many and varied industries and sectors of the economy, which provides him a unique and beneficial perspective for his service on the Board.
Board Committees
Audit Committee
The Audit Committee is currently comprised of four directors, none of whom is a current or former employee of the Company and all of whom are independent directors of the Company. The current members of the Audit Committee are Messrs. Choate, Ezzell and Lynch (Chairman) and Ms. O’Neal. The Audit Committee was established in accordance with Section 3(a)(58)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”). The Audit Committee, which operates under a written charter, represents the Board in discharging its responsibility relating to the accounting, reporting and financial practices of the Company and its subsidiaries. Its primary functions include monitoring the integrity of the Company’s financial statements, system of internal controls and compliance with regulatory and legal requirements; monitoring the independence, qualifications and performance of the Company’s independent registered public accounting firm and internal auditing services; and providing a vehicle for communication among the independent registered public accounting firm, management, internal audit and the Board. The complete text of the Audit Committee charter is available at www.amerisbank.com.
Compensation Committee
The Compensation Committee is currently comprised of four directors — Messrs. Bullard, Hill (Chairman), Jeter and Stern — none of whom is a current or former employee of the Company or any of its subsidiaries and all of whom are independent directors of the Company. The duties of the Compensation Committee, which operates under a written charter, are generally to establish the compensation for the Company’s executive officers and to act on such other matters relating to compensation as it deems appropriate, including an annual evaluation of the Company’s Chief Executive Officer and the design and oversight of all compensation and benefit programs in which the Company’s employees and officers are eligible to participate. Additional information regarding the Compensation Committee’s processes and procedures for consideration of executive officer compensation is provided under “Executive Compensation — Compensation Discussion and Analysis.” The complete text of the Compensation Committee charter is available at www.amerisbank.com.
 
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Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee
The Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee is currently comprised of four directors, none of whom is a current or former employee of the Company and all of whom are independent directors of the Company. The members of the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee are Messrs. Hill, Stern (Chairman) and Veal and Ms. McCague. Pursuant to its written charter, the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee is responsible for considering, and making recommendations to the Board regarding, the size and composition of the Board, recommending and nominating candidates to fill Board vacancies that may occur and recommending to the Board the director nominees for whom the Board will solicit proxies. Additional information regarding the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee’s processes and procedures is provided under “Governance — Director Nomination Process and Diversity.” The complete text of the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee charter is available at www.amerisbank.com.
Executive Committee
The Executive Committee is currently comprised of five directors, two of whom are current or former employees of the Company. The current members of the Executive Committee are Messrs. Hill, Miller, Proctor (Chairman) and Stern and Ms. McCague. The Executive Committee is authorized to exercise all of the powers of the Board, except those that under the Georgia Business Corporation Code may not be exercised by a committee of directors.
Enterprise Risk Committee
The Enterprise Risk Committee is currently comprised of three directors, none of whom is a current or former employee of the Company and all of whom are independent directors of the Company. The members of the Enterprise Rick Committee are Mr. Jeter, Ms. McCague (Chairman) and Ms. O’Neal. Pursuant to its written charter, the Enterprise Risk Committee is responsible for the oversight and governance of risk management functions, programs and activities throughout the Company.
Credit Risk Committee
The Credit Risk Committee is currently comprised of four directors, none of whom is a current or former employee of the Company and all of whom are independent directors of the Company. The directors who are members of the Credit Risk Committee are Messrs. Bowen, Choate (Chairman), Lynch and Veal. Pursuant to its written charter, the Credit Risk Committee oversees the Company’s asset quality and credit administration practices by reviewing risk strategies for the loan portfolio, loan applications, overall credit quality standards and performance, new loan products and lending strategies and compliance and adequacy of the Company’s allowance for loan and lease losses.
Trust Committee
The Trust Committee is currently comprised of three directors, none of whom is a current or former employee of the Company and all of whom are independent directors of the Company. The members of the Trust Committee are Messrs. Bowen, Bullard and Ezzell (Chairman). Pursuant to its written charter, the Trust Committee is responsible for overseeing the Trust Department’s accounting and financial reporting processes, its system of and adherence to internal controls, and its compliance with the Company’s fiduciary responsibilities.
 
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Board and Committee Meetings
The following table provides the number of meetings held by the Board and its committees during 2021.
Director Name
Number of
Meetings in 2021
Board of Directors 6
Audit Committee 9
Compensation Committee 5
Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee 5
Executive Committee 4
Enterprise Risk Committee 4
Credit Risk Committee 4
Trust Committee 4
Each director attended at least 75% of all meetings of the full Board and of those committees on which he or she served and was eligible to attend in 2021. Additionally, the independent directors met in executive sessions, without any members of management or other employees present, four times in 2021. These executive sessions allow the Board to review key decisions and discuss matters in a manner that is independent of management.
All members of the Board then serving participated in the Company’s 2021 Annual Meeting of Shareholders (the “2021 Annual Meeting”).
Director Compensation
The objectives of our non-employee director compensation program are to attract highly qualified individuals to serve on the Board and to appropriately align the interests of the Company’s directors with those of our shareholders. The Compensation Committee reviews the director compensation program periodically to ensure that it continues to meet these objectives. In order to determine whether the director compensation program is competitive, the Compensation Committee considers peer group and general market information on program design provided by its independent compensation consultant, as well as the significant amount of time that directors expend in fulfilling their duties to the Company and the skill level required by members of the Board.
For 2021, director compensation is comprised of the following components:

Annual Cash Retainer — each non-employee director receives an annual cash retainer at a rate of $60,000 per year.

Annual Equity Retainer — each non-employee director receives an annual award of time-based restricted stock that vests after one year with a value of approximately $65,000.

Lead Independent Director — receives an additional annual cash retainer of  $25,000.

Board Chair — a non-employee Board chair receives an additional annual cash retainer of $25,000.

Committee Chair Retainer — the non-employee chair of each committee receives an additional annual cash retainer at the rate set forth below:

Audit — $20,000 per year.

Compensation — $15,000 per year.

Corporate Governance and Nominating — $15,000 per year.

Enterprise Risk — $15,000 per year.
 
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Executive — $10,000 per year.

Trust — $10,000 per year.

Community Boards — each non-employee director with membership on one of the Bank’s community boards receives an additional monthly fee of  $400, or $600 if serving as chair.
Cash retainers payable to non-employee directors are prorated in any year in which the Board or committee chair appointment is not effective for the entirety of such year.
Director Compensation Table
The following Director Compensation Table sets forth the total compensation earned by directors for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2021. Mr. Proctor, who is also a named executive officer, is not included in the table below. Compensation paid to named executive officers for their service in a director capacity, if any, is presented in the supplementary table to the Summary Compensation Table included in “Executive Compensation — Compensation Tables.”
Name
Fees
Earned or
Paid in
Cash
Stock
Awards(1)
Option
Awards
Non-Equity
Incentive
Plan
Compensation
Change in
Pension Value
and
Nonqualified
Deferred
Compensation
Earnings
All Other
Compensation
Total
William I. Bowen, Jr. $ 65,400 $ 65,022 $   — $ $   — $ 1,110 $ 131,532
Rodney D. Bullard $ 60,000 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 126,132
Wm. Millard Choate $ 70,000 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 136,132
R. Dale Ezzell $ 75,400 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 141,532
Leo J. Hill $ 100,000 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 166,132
Daniel B. Jeter $ 63,600 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 129,732
Robert P. Lynch $ 83,600 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 929 $ 149,551
Elizabeth A. McCague $ 72,917 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 139,049
James B. Miller, Jr. $ $ $ $ 932,360(2) $ $ 1,429,904(2) $ 2,362,264
Gloria A. O’Neal $ 60,000 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 126,132
William H. Stern $ 78,317 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 144,449
Jimmy D. Veal $ 65,400 $ 65,022 $ $ $ $ 1,110 $ 131,532
(1)
The stock award figure represents the fair value of the stock awards as calculated in accordance with GAAP. The shares were issued June 10, 2021 and the fair value was $54.05 per share. The shares vest on the earlier of June 10, 2022 and the date of the Annual Meeting, provided that the grantee continues to serve as a director of the Company through the vesting date.
(2)
Represents amounts paid to Mr. Miller pursuant to his employment agreement with the Company, which is described below.
Employment Agreement with Mr. Miller
In connection with the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, the Company and the Bank entered into an employment agreement with Mr. Miller, which became effective upon the closing of the acquisition on July 1, 2019 (the “Miller Employment Agreement”). The Miller Employment Agreement provides that Mr. Miller will serve as Chairman and a member of the boards of directors of the Company and the Bank. The term of the employment agreement is three years. In consideration for his services, Mr. Miller will be entitled to: (i) an annual base salary of  $1,000,000; (ii) incentive compensation opportunities that are no less favorable than those provided by Fidelity prior to its acquisition or, if more favorable, those provided to other senior executives of the Company, provided that the target annual incentive opportunities will not be less than 50% of Mr. Miller’s annual base salary; and (iii) employee benefits and fringe benefits (including life insurance, vacation, reimbursement of club dues and automobile benefits) that are no less
 
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favorable than those provided by Fidelity prior to its acquisition or, if more favorable, those provided to other senior executives of the Company.
The Miller Employment Agreement provides that, in the event of termination of Mr. Miller’s employment by the Company without cause or by Mr. Miller for good reason, the Company will pay to Mr. Miller, subject to the execution of a release of claims, certain accrued but unpaid amounts and the following severance benefits:

A cash severance payment equal to the excess of: (i) the product of  (a) three multiplied by (b) the executive’s “Final Compensation” ​(which is defined generally as the sum of the executive’s annual base salary and target annual cash bonus opportunity) over (ii) the amount described in the immediately following bullet, payable in installments over 36 months.

A cash payment equal to 60% of the annual base salary that would have been payable to the executive during the 18-month restrictive covenant period (as described below), payable in installments over 18 months. (This amount is payable to Mr. Miller in the event of any termination other than death or disability.)

Continued participation in employee welfare benefit programs for 18 months after the date of termination on the same basis as other executives.

A prorated annual cash bonus for the year in which termination occurs, determined assuming performance goals are satisfied at the target level.

Full vesting of any equity or other long-term incentive awards, with any applicable performance goals deemed satisfied at the greater of target and actual performance and with any stock options exercisable for the full remaining term thereof.
The Miller Employment Agreement also provides that the Company will maintain, during Mr. Miller’s lifetime, life insurance policies in the aggregate face amount of  $8.0 million. If the compensation and benefits payable under the Miller Employment Agreement would be subject to Section 280G of the Code, such amounts would be reduced to the extent such reduction would place Mr. Miller in a better after-tax position. The Miller Employment Agreement contains certain restrictive covenants, including a perpetual nondisclosure covenant and covenants concerning noncompetition and nonsolicitation of clients, customers and employees, each of which apply for 18 months following Mr. Miller’s termination of employment.
Under the Miller Employment Agreement:

“cause” means: (i) any act or omission requiring the Company to terminate the executive in order to comply with certain provisions of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act; (ii) the commission of a felony or any other crime involving moral turpitude or the pleading of nolo contendere to any such act; (iii) the commission of any act or acts of dishonesty when such acts are intended to result or result, directly or indirectly, in gain or personal enrichment of the executive or any related person or affiliated company and are intended to cause harm or damage to the Company or its subsidiaries; (iv) the illegal use of controlled substances; (v) the misappropriation or embezzlement of assets of the Company or its subsidiaries; (vi) the breach by the executive of certain restrictive covenants and confidentiality obligations set forth in the Miller Employment Agreement; or (vii) the breach by the executive of any other material term or provision of the Miller Employment Agreement; and

“good reason” means: (i) there is a material change in the executive’s position or responsibilities (including reporting responsibilities) which, in the executive’s reasonable judgment, represents an adverse change from the executive’s status, title, position or responsibilities; (ii) the assignment to the executive of any duties or responsibilities which are materially inconsistent with the position or responsibilities of the executive; (iii) any removal of the executive from or failure to reappoint or reelect the executive to any of the positions the executive held; (iv) there is a material reduction in the executive’s rate of base salary or a change in the manner the incentive compensation of the executive is calculated and such change will result in a reduction of the incentive compensation of the executive; (v) requiring the executive to relocate his principal business office to any place
 
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outside a 15-mile radius from the executive’s current place of employment in Atlanta, Georgia; (vi) the failure of the Company to continue in effect certain welfare plans, life insurance policies and other compensation plans or materially and adversely affecting certain fringe benefits; or (vii) the material breach of any provision of the Miller Employment Agreement which is not timely corrected by the Company within a specified cure period.
 
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INFORMATION ABOUT OUR EXECUTIVE OFFICERS
The following table sets forth certain information regarding each executive officer of the Company. Our executive officers serve at the discretion of the Board, and Mr. Proctor serves subject to his employment agreement with the Company.
Name, Age and
Term as Officer
Position
Principal Occupation for the Last Five Years
and Other Directorships
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr., 54
Officer since 2019
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Executive Officer of the Company and the Bank since July 2019. Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, President of Fidelity since April 2006; Chief Executive Officer of Fidelity Bank since April 2017; President of Fidelity Bank since October 2004; and a director of Fidelity Bank since 2004. Also, has served as a director of Brown and Brown, Inc., an independent insurance intermediary, since 2012, and serves as a member of the Advisory Board of Allied Financial and a director of Choate Construction Company. Mr. Proctor also served as Chairman of the Georgia Bankers Association from 2017 to 2018.
Lawton E. Bassett, III, 53
Officer since 2016
Corporate Executive Vice President, Chief Banking Officer and Bank President
Chief Banking Officer of the Company and Bank President since February 2017; Corporate Executive Vice President since February 2016; Chief Banking Officer for Alabama and Georgia from February 2016 through January 2017; and Regional President and Market President from 2006 through January 2017. From 2003-2006, served as President and Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Security Bank, formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company. Prior to joining the Company, served in various commercial lending and leadership roles at Barnett Bank and SunTrust.
Nicole S. Stokes, 47
Officer since 2018
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Company and the Bank since January 2018; Chief Financial Officer of the Bank since June 2016; and Senior Vice President and Controller from December 2010 through May 2016.
Ross L. Creasy, 48
Officer since 2019
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer of the Bank since July 2019. Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, Chief Information Officer of Fidelity Bank since July 2018, during which Mr. Creasy oversaw Technology and Operations. Prior to joining Fidelity, served in various positions with E*TRADE, Capital One and the Federal Reserve.
 
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Name, Age and
Term as Officer
Position
Principal Occupation for the Last Five Years
and Other Directorships
Jon S. Edwards, 60
Officer since 1999
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer since May 2005; Executive Vice President and Regional Bank Executive for Southern Division from August 2002 through April 2005; Director of Credit Administration from March 1999 to July 2003; Senior Vice President from March 1999 to August 2002; and director of each subsidiary bank in the Southern Division from September 2002 through April 2005.
James A. LaHaise, 61
Officer since 2014
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer since October 2018; Executive Vice President and Corporate Banking Executive from February 2017 through September 2018; Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer for Florida and South Carolina from February 2016 through January 2017; Executive Vice President, Commercial Banking Executive from June 2014 until February 2016; President and Chief Executive Officer of Coastal Bankshares, Inc. and The Coastal Bank from January 2013 until they were acquired by the Company in June 2014; and Executive Vice President and Chief Banking Officer of The Coastal Bank from May 2007 through December 2012.
William D. McKendry, 53
Officer since 2017
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer of the Company since September 2017; Executive Vice President and Chief Risk Officer for Bank of North Carolina from December 2011 to September 2017; and Deputy General Auditor for First Citizens Bancshares from June 2004 to October 2011.
Michael T. Pierson, 52
Officer since 2019
Corporate Executive Vice President, Chief Governance Officer and Corporate Secretary
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Governance Officer of the Company and the Bank since March 2020; Corporate Secretary of the Company and the Bank since January 2022; and Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of Ameris and Ameris Bank from July 2019 to March 2020. Prior to the Company’s acquisition of Fidelity, served in various leadership roles at Fidelity and Fidelity Bank for 21 years, including Head of Commercial Banking, Mergers and Acquisitions and Chief Risk Officer.
R. Todd Shutley, 58
Officer since 2020
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Specialty Banking Officer
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Specialty Banking Officer of the Bank since June 2020. Prior to joining the Bank, EVP and Head of Commercial Industry Specialty and Advisory at SunTrust Bank (now Truist Bank). Prior to that, served as Managing Director and on the Operating Committee for SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.
 
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Name, Age and
Term as Officer
Position
Principal Occupation for the Last Five Years
and Other Directorships
Jody L. Spencer, 50
Officer since 2019
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer since July 2019; attorney at Rogers & Hardin LLP from March 2001 to July 2019, serving as a partner from January 2008 to July 2019.
 
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EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION
Compensation Discussion and Analysis
The following Compensation Discussion and Analysis contains statements regarding future individual and Company performance targets or goals. We have disclosed these targets or goals in the limited context of the Company’s compensation programs; therefore, you should not take these statements to be statements of management’s expectations or estimates of results or other guidance. We specifically caution investors not to apply such statements in other contexts.
This Compensation Discussion and Analysis is intended to assist our shareholders in understanding the Company’s compensation programs. It presents and explains the philosophy underlying our compensation strategy and the fundamental elements of compensation paid to our named executive officers (collectively, “named executive officers” or “NEOs”) whose 2021 compensation information is provided in the tables following this discussion. Our 2021 NEOs are the following:
NEO
Position
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr. Chief Executive Officer
Nicole S. Stokes Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Lawton E. Bassett, III Corporate Executive Vice President, Chief Banking Officer and Bank President
Jon S. Edwards
Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Credit Officer
James A. LaHaise Corporate Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer
Specifically, this Compensation Discussion and Analysis addresses the following:

Certain relevant 2021 business performance highlights;

Shareholder outreach;

Our compensation philosophy and the objectives of our compensation programs;

What our compensation programs are designed to reward;

Our process for determining executive officer compensation, including:

the role and responsibility of the Compensation Committee;

the role of the Chief Executive Officer and other named executive officers;

the role of compensation consultants; and

benchmarking and other market analyses;

Elements of compensation provided to our executive officers, including:

the purpose of each element of compensation;

why we elect to pay each element of compensation;

how we determine the levels or payout opportunities for each element;

decisions on final payments for each element and how these align with performance; and

plan design changes for 2022; and

Other compensation and benefit policies affecting our executive officers.
 
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2021 Business Performance Highlights
During 2021, the Company delivered strong performance, including earnings of  $376.9 million, full year organic loan growth of 10.45% (excluding PPP loans), tangible book value growth of 10.8% and a return on assets of 1.73%. In addition, the Company was able to maintain a 55% efficiency ratio, in one of the tightest margin environments the Company has experienced, and successfully complete the acquisition of Balboa Capital Corporation in December 2021. These results are a culmination of the efforts of the entire Ameris team. The Company has positioned itself to be asset sensitive, it remains focused on expense control, and its credit quality remains strong. The Company is proud of the results achieved in 2021, including:

Net income of  $376.9 million, or $5.40 per diluted share, compared with $262.0 million, or $3.77 per diluted share, in 2020;

Organic growth in loans of  $727.5 million, or 5.0% (and $1.4 billion, or 10.5%, exclusive of PPP loans);

Adjusted return on average assets of 1.69%, compared with 1.56% in 2020;

Adjusted return on average tangible common equity of 20.19%, compared with 19.77% in 2020;

Growth in tangible book value of 10.8%, or $2.57 per share, to $26.26 at December 31, 2021, compared with $23.69 at December 31, 2020; and

Continued growth in noninterest bearing deposits, representing 39.54% of total deposits, up from 36.27% at December 31, 2020.
Adjusted return on average assets, adjusted return on average tangible common equity and tangible book value are performance measures determined by methods other than in accordance with GAAP. See “Reconciliation of GAAP and Non-GAAP Financial Measures” in Exhibit A to this Proxy Statement for a reconciliation to 2021 GAAP results.
Shareholder Outreach
We communicate regularly with our shareholders about matters of importance to them, as well as our corporate strategy, financial performance, long-term objectives and business opportunities. Our shareholder outreach efforts also include responding to shareholder correspondence and inquiries; attending investor conferences; engaging with analysts who cover the Company to reinforce key themes regarding corporate strategy and financial performance; engaging with proxy advisory services such as Glass Lewis and ISS; and meeting with rating agencies.
The feedback we receive through our shareholder outreach program and our advisory votes on executive compensation (“say-on-pay”) enhances our understanding of our shareholders’ views. The Board and senior management remain committed to open and transparent communication and engagement with our shareholders and take all feedback into consideration when evaluating our compensation program design.
At the 2021 Annual Meeting, approximately 98% of the voting shareholders approved the Company’s 2020 executive compensation program for the NEOs. The Compensation Committee believes our current program adequately and effectively addresses shareholder concerns, promotes the Company’s business strategy and aligns pay with performance and shareholder value.
 
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Compensation Philosophy and the Objectives of Our Compensation Programs
Our executive compensation program reflects the Company’s commitment to pay for performance and the alignment of the interests of the Company’s executives with those of our shareholders. Our executive compensation program is designed to encourage our executives to take actions that support the Company’s short-term financial goals as well as ensure the Company’s ability to sustain strong shareholder value creation over the long-term. To drive the achievement of our short- and long-term goals, our executive compensation program is designed to accomplish the following objectives:

Aligning the interests of our NEOs with those of our shareholders by delivering a substantial portion of each executive’s total compensation opportunity through performance-based incentives;

Attracting, retaining and motivating talented executives with significant industry knowledge and the experience and leadership capability to achieve success; and

Providing a strong link between pay and performance by using cash- and equity-based incentives to reward for the achievement of short- and long-term goals that align with the Company’s strategic priorities.
To meet these objectives, the Compensation Committee has carefully structured the Company’s compensation programs to reflect our pay for performance philosophy and support long-term shareholder value creation, as follows:

Competitive Compensation Opportunity.   Our compensation levels are benchmarked to peers and industry comparators that are comparable to the Company in terms of factors such as asset size, geography and business model. We target annual pay levels for our NEOs based on a competitive range around the 50th percentile of this market data.

Well-Balanced Compensation Programs.   The structure of our executive compensation program includes a balanced mix of cash and equity compensation with a strong emphasis on performance-based and at-risk compensation.

Alignment with Annual Goals.   We use cash-based incentives that rewards our NEOs for the achievement of both the financial and operating objectives of the Company and individual performance objectives, which together support our business strategy.

Performance-Based Long-Term Incentives.   To strengthen the alignment between pay and performance and ensure retention of key talent, 50% of our equity-based long-term incentive compensation is tied to the achievement of longer-term (three-year) financial and strategic goals, while 50% of our long-term incentive compensation is tied to restricted stock awards that vest three years from the date of grant, either ratably or at one time.

Limited Perquisites.   We provide our NEOs with minimal perquisites that are consistent with competitive market practice.

Independent Decision Makers.   Our Compensation Committee of independent directors works closely with an independent compensation consultant to monitor our executive compensation programs to ensure alignment with market trends and practices, our business plans and long-term strategy, and the interests of our shareholders.
In designing and administering the Company’s executive compensation program, the Compensation Committee strives to maintain an appropriate balance across all of the various compensation elements, realizing that at times some objectives may change. In addition, external factors, such as the general state of the economy and the banking industry or legislative changes impacting executive compensation, may impact the effectiveness of existing approaches to executive compensation. Such events require ongoing monitoring and a careful reconsideration of existing approaches by the Compensation Committee. On an annual basis the Compensation Committee carefully evaluates and, where appropriate, makes decisions and adjustments to future compensation programs in an effort to consistently implement the strategic objectives of executive compensation.
 
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What Our Executive Compensation Programs are Designed to Reward
Our executive officers’ compensation programs use different components to reward different performance considerations. Base salary is provided to reward each executive for daily contributions and the application of his or her knowledge, experience and talent to the success of the Company. Base salary is also a reflection of the external value of each executive’s position in the job market and the internal value of his or her assigned roles and responsibilities to the success and ongoing viability of the Company.
Annual incentives are provided to focus performance on the key strategic short-term objectives defined and established on an annual basis. These incentives are strongly linked to the success of achieving annual performance objectives and provide each executive with cash rewards commensurate with the Company’s annual performance and the Board’s assessment of the executive’s personal performance.
Long-term incentives reward executives for the longer-term success of the Company. In 2021, the Company granted long-term incentives in the form of time-based restricted stock and performance stock units. This equity-based compensation rewards executives for the long-term performance of the Company and maintains the alignment between executive compensation levels and shareholder value.
Benefits provided to each executive officer are in line with our broad-based employee benefits, which meet basic health and welfare needs. We also provide supplemental executive retirement programs for certain of our key executive officers. Perquisites for our executives remain conservative and primarily serve to enhance our executives’ business development activities.
The following charts show the relative value of the various compensation components for 2021 (base salary, annual incentive at target, long-term incentive value at grant date and other compensation, including supplemental retirement and perquisites), as a percentage of 2021 total compensation.
[MISSING IMAGE: tm228022d6-pc_ceonew4c.jpg]
Process for Determining Executive Officer Compensation
Role of the Compensation Committee
The Compensation Committee administers the Company’s executive compensation program. Throughout 2021, the Compensation Committee included Messrs. Bullard, Hill (Chairman), Jeter and Stern. The members of the Compensation Committee all qualify as independent, outside members of the Board in accordance with the requirements of Nasdaq and current SEC regulations.
The Compensation Committee is responsible for all compensation decisions for the Chief Executive Officer and the other named executive officers. The Compensation Committee annually reviews the levels of compensation along with the performance results on goals and objectives relating to compensation for the named executive officers. Based on this evaluation, the Compensation Committee
 
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makes decisions related to our executive compensation program with final approval by the Board, except where the Compensation Committee has otherwise been given final authority with respect to a specific component of compensation.
Additionally, the Compensation Committee periodically reviews our incentive plans and other equity-based plans. The Compensation Committee reviews, adopts and submits to the Board any proposed arrangement or plan and any amendment to an existing arrangement or plan that provides or will provide benefits to the executive officers collectively or to an individual executive officer. The Compensation Committee has sole authority to retain and terminate compensation consultants and other advisors as it deems appropriate.
Role of the Executive Officers
The Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Governance Officer work with the Compensation Committee to gather and compile data and supporting materials for review at Compensation Committee meetings, attend Compensation Committee meetings and make recommendations about the design of our executive compensation program plans. The Chief Risk Officer annually reviews and verifies all calculations for purposes of determining incentive payouts. The Chief Executive Officer annually reviews the performance of the other NEOs, after which the Chief Executive Officer presents his conclusions and recommendations to the Compensation Committee for approval. The Compensation Committee has absolute discretion as to whether it approves the recommendations of the Chief Executive Officer or makes adjustments, as it deems appropriate.
Role of Compensation Consultant
The Compensation Committee has retained Frederic W. Cook & Co., Inc. (“FW Cook”) to serve as the Compensation Committee’s independent compensation consultant. The Compensation Committee has sole authority to retain, terminate and approve the fees of its compensation consultant. In its role as the Compensation Committee’s independent advisor, FW Cook regularly attends Compensation Committee meetings and advises on matters including compensation program design, benchmarking compensation and relative pay for performance. FW Cook also provides market data, analyses and advice regarding the compensation of our NEOs and other executive officers and our non-employee directors. FW Cook has not provided any services to the Company other than executive compensation consulting services provided to the Compensation Committee. The Compensation Committee considered the independence of FW Cook in light of current SEC rules and Nasdaq listing standards and concluded that the work of FW Cook did not raise any conflict of interest.
Benchmarking
The Compensation Committee reviews competitive data for comparable executive positions in the market. External market data is used by the Compensation Committee as a point of reference in its executive pay decisions in conjunction with financial and individual performance data. In considering the competitive environment, the Compensation Committee reviews compensation information disclosed by a peer group of comparably sized companies with which we compete for business and executive talent. In addition, information derived from published compensation surveys is used to supplement the peer group data and is used to compare the elements of each executive officer’s target total direct compensation to the market information for executives with similar roles. The Compensation Committee’s independent compensation consultant compiles this information and size-adjusts the published survey data to reflect our asset size in relation to the survey participants to more accurately reflect the scope of responsibility for each executive officer.
The Compensation Committee, with input from its independent compensation consultant, annually reviews and selects the peer companies, which generally consist of publicly traded regional commercial bank holding companies. For 2021, the peer companies were selected primarily based upon the following criteria: (i) similar business operations and geographic footprint; (ii) assets and market capitalization between approximately one-third and three times our assets and market capitalization; and (iii) competitors for executive talent.
 
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For 2021 compensation actions, our peer group consisted of the following 16 companies (the peer group originally included both Cadence Bancorporation and BancorpSouth Bank until their merger forming Cadence Bank in October 2021):
Company
Total Assets
(12/31/2021)
Company
Total Assets
(12/31/2021)
Cadence Bank $ 47.7 Simmons First National Corporation $ 24.7
UMB Financial Corporation $ 42.7 United Community Banks, Inc. $ 20.9
SouthState Corporation $ 42.0
Atlantic Union Bankshares Corporation
$ 20.1
Pinnacle Financial Partners, Inc. $ 38.5 Independent Bank Group, Inc. $ 18.7
Commerce Bancshares, Inc. $ 36.7 Hilltop Holdings Inc. $ 18.7
Hancock Whitney Corporation $ 36.5 Home Bancshares, Inc. $ 18.1
United Bankshares, Inc. $ 29.3 Trustmark Corporation $ 17.6
Bank OZK $ 26.5 Renasant Corporation $ 16.8
Median
$25.6
Ameris Bancorp
$23.9
Source: S&P Capital IQ. Data as of 12/31/2021.
($ in billions)
Elements of Compensation
The components of the 2021 executive compensation program, as well as the type of compensation and the objectives of the compensation, are included in the table below:
Component
Type
Objectives
Base Salary Fixed

Attract and retain executives

Compensate executive for level of responsibility and experience
Short-Term (Annual) Incentives Variable

Reward achievement of the Company’s annual financial and operational goals

Promote accountability and strategic decision-making
Long-Term Incentives
Variable

Align management and shareholder goals by linking management compensation to share price over extended period

Encourage long-term, strategic decision-making

Reward achievement of long-term company performance goals

Promote accountability

Retain key executives
Perquisites and Other Personal Benefits Fixed

Foster the health and well-being of executives

Attract and retain executives
Retirement Income and Savings Plans Fixed

Retain key executives

Reward employee loyalty and long-term service
Post-Termination Compensation and Benefits Fixed

Attract and retain executives

Promote continuity in management

Promote equitable separations between the Company and its executives
 
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Base Salary
It is the Company’s philosophy that employees be paid a base salary that is competitive with the salaries paid by comparable organizations based on each employee’s experience, performance and any other unique factors or qualifications. Generally, the Company has chosen to position cash compensation in a range around market median levels in order to remain competitive in attracting and retaining executive talent. The range is also benchmarked, and employees are paid within the market benchmarked range based on their unique situation. Actual base salaries paid vary within a range based on performance over time. The allocation of total cash compensation between base salary and annual bonus or incentives is based on a variety of factors. In addition to the market positioning of the base salary and the mix of total compensation, the Compensation Committee also takes into consideration the following:

The executive’s performance;

The performance of the Company;

The performance of the individual business or corporate function for which the executive is responsible;

The nature and importance of the position and role within the Company;

The scope of the executive’s responsibility; and

The current compensation package in place for the executive, including the executive’s current annual salary and potential awards under the Company’s incentive plan.
After reviewing the total compensation targets for our NEOs against market data, the Compensation Committee approved the following 2021 base salary amounts, effective March 1, 2021.
2020 Base Salary
2021 Base Salary
Total
Adjustment
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr. $ 850,000 $ 850,000 0%
Nicole S. Stokes $ 440,000 $ 453,000 3%
Lawton E. Bassett, III $ 500,000 $ 500,000 0%
Jon S. Edwards $ 375,000 $ 386,000 3%
James A. LaHaise $ 375,000 $ 425,000 13%
Mr. LaHaise received a more significant increase to base salary to recognize his outstanding individual performance and contribution, his expanded role and responsibilities, and the elevated market data benchmark.
Annual Incentives
The Compensation Committee believes a formalized annual incentive plan with well-defined and clearly communicated objectives strengthens the link between performance and compensation. The 2021 annual incentive plan was developed to subject a meaningful portion of our NEOs’ cash compensation to achievement of pre-established performance targets to ensure the continued alignment of executive compensation, Company performance and strategic goal attainment. Annual incentive cash payouts reflect the extent to which annual targets for performance goals are met or exceeded. Targets for performance goals are set with the intent that achievement will ultimately result in enhancement to shareholder value. When determining the targets, the Compensation Committee considers past financial performance of the Company and its internal estimates of the current’s year planned financial performance. Growth expectations as well as improved profitability and operating efficiencies are the gauge by which meaningful targets are set and executive performance is measured.
The Compensation Committee uses three performance levels when setting cash incentive targets: “Threshold”, “Target” and “Maximum”. The performance levels are set relative to the prior fiscal year’s actual results and current fiscal year projections. The Compensation Committee expects the Company to achieve or exceed the Target level of performance, which is intended to be a stretch target. The
 
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Threshold performance level is the minimum performance level required for any cash incentive payout, while the Maximum level of performance is set at a high level of performance that requires significant efforts and exceptional execution to achieve.
The performance measures used in 2021 were unchanged from the metrics used in 2020 as they continue to align with our internal operating plan and business strategy. The 2021 goals included the following:
Performance Measure
Weight
Credit Quality 33.0%
ROA (Return on Assets) 34.0%
Efficiency Ratio 33.0%
For 2021, achievement by the NEOs at Threshold pays out at 50% of the performance goal’s weight. Achievement at Target pays out at 100% of the performance goal’s weight. Achievement at Maximum pays out at 170% (the maximum achievement level or “cap”) of the performance goal’s weight. Actual results are prorated based on where they fall along the continuum from the Threshold amount through the Target amount, and from the Target amount through the Maximum amount.
In addition to the performance measures listed above, the Compensation Committee retains the ability to apply negative discretion to reduce the incentive payout, if needed. Also, total payouts can be adjusted by +/- 10% based on individual performance assessments in order to differentiate payouts based on individual contributions.
During the first quarter of 2021, the Compensation Committee established the Target percentage of base salary for each of the NEOs. The Compensation Committee used the 2021 base salary in calculating the annual incentive award payments. The following chart shows the range of annual incentive award opportunities expressed as a percentage of salary for the NEOs.
Named Executive Officer
Threshold
(% of salary)
Target
(% of salary)
Maximum
(% of salary)
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr. 50.00% 100.00% 170.00%
Nicole S. Stokes 32.50% 65.00% 110.50%
Lawton E. Bassett, III 32.50% 65.00% 110.50%
Jon S. Edwards 32.50% 65.00% 110.50%
James A. LaHaise 32.50% 65.00% 110.50%
Mr. Proctor’s Target percentage of base salary was increased from 85% in 2020 to 100% in 2021 based on competitive market practices and consideration of Mr. Proctor’s contribution to the Company.
Calculating Annual Incentive Awards
The following formula was used to calculate the payment that could be awarded to a named executive officer under the 2021 annual incentive award program:
Base Salary x Target Percentage of Base Salary x Company Achievement x Individual Performance
 
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The 2021 performance goals for short-term incentive compensation were chosen because each of the goals strongly aligned with the overall business objectives of the Company for the year and were as follows:
33% Weight
Credit Quality
34% Weight
ROA
33% Weight
Efficiency Ratio
Threshold
0.65%
1.25%
55%
Target
0.50% — 0.55%
1.35% — 1.45%
53.00% — 54.00%
Maximum
0.40%
1.55%
52.00%
Actual
0.39%(1)
1.69%
55.00%
(1)
Adjusted for purchased credit deteriorated loans acquired from Balboa Capital Corporation, which the Bank acquired in December 2021. Credit Quality, as adjusted for such purchased credit deteriorated loans, is a performance measure determined by methods other than in accordance with GAAP. See “Reconciliation of GAAP and Non-GAAP Financial Measures” in Exhibit A to this Proxy Statement for a reconciliation to the most comparable GAAP measure.
The Company achieved above the Maximum level of performance with respect to Credit Quality and ROA and achieved at Threshold level with respect to Efficiency Ratio. Based on the weighted operating performance results relative to the Targets established for 2021, a 130.40% achievement factor was reached, compared with the targeted payout factor of 100%. The Compensation Committee believes these incentive payments are aligned with the Company’s business results and compensation philosophy.
In deciding the amount of the incentive award, the Compensation Committee can consider, among other things, the Company’s overall performance and the individual participant’s specific contributions and performance throughout the performance period, as well as any actual or perceived inappropriate risks taken by participants. Individual performance criteria for all NEOs in 2021 were reviewed, and based on guidance from the Chief Executive Officer, the Compensation Committee determined to apply the 10% individual performance adjustment to the formulaic calculations for the NEOs, excluding the Chief Executive Officer. Without the Chief Executive Officer present, the Compensation Committee determined that his outstanding performance also warranted a 10% adjustment to the payout.
Annual incentive payouts for 2021 performance for the NEOs are listed below:
Named
Executive Officer
Base
Salary X
Target
(% of salary) X
Company
Achievement X
Individual
Performance =
Actual
Incentive
Payout
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr. $ 850,000 100% 130.40% 110% $ 1,219,240
Nicole S. Stokes $ 453,000 65% 130.40% 110% $ 422,359
Lawton E. Bassett, III $ 500,000 65% 130.40% 110% $ 466,180
Jon S. Edwards $ 386,000 65% 130.40% 110% $ 359,891
James A. LaHaise $ 425,000 65% 130.40% 110% $ 396,253
2021 Long-Term Equity Awards
The Compensation Committee believes that the Company’s executive compensation program should include a significant equity-based component because this best aligns the interests of our executives with those of our shareholders. The Company’s employees and non-employee directors may participate in the Ameris Bancorp 2021 Omnibus Equity Incentive Plan (the “2021 Plan”). Awards may be granted under the 2021 Plan from time to time and may be in the form options, stock appreciation rights, restricted shares, restricted share units, performance shares, performance units, performance awards and other stock-based awards. The 2021 Plan was approved by the Company’s shareholders at the 2021 Annual Meeting held on June 10, 2021, and replaced the Ameris Bancorp 2014 Omnibus Equity Compensation Plan (the “2014 Plan”). All awards outstanding under the 2014 Plan as of June 10, 2021 remain in full force and effect under the 2014 Plan according to their respective terms.
 
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The Compensation Committee carefully considers the following factors when determining the type and amount of equity to award:

Performance and contribution of the executive officer;

Prior awards issued to the executive officer;

The current amount and intrinsic value of unvested equity held by the executive officer;

Current number of shares owned by the executive officer;

Proportion of total compensation on an annual basis consisting of equity awards; and

Market data on the median level of equity awarded to comparable positions.
We consider long-term equity-based compensation to be critical to the alignment of executive compensation with shareholder value creation. Therefore, a market competitive, long-term equity-based incentive component is an integral part of our overall executive compensation program. The total long-term incentive award in a given year is based on a targeted dollar value that is then converted into the specific equity awards.
The following chart reflects the 2021 Target award opportunities for each NEO:
Named Executive Officer
LTI Target
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr. $ 1,300,000
Nicole S. Stokes $ 400,000
Lawton E. Bassett, III $ 350,000
Jon S. Edwards $ 300,000
James A. LaHaise $ 350,000
Target long-term incentive opportunities are established based on competitive market practices. The 2021 Target award opportunity for Mr. Proctor was increased to align with such practices.
The fair value of 2021 long-term incentive awards is reflected in the Summary Compensation Table in “Executive Compensation-Compensation Tables.” In 2021, our long-term equity incentive program consisted of the following components:

Performance Stock Units (50% of long-term incentive award) — All NEOs received performance stock units on February 18, 2021. These performance stock units are awards that will be earned based upon the Compensation Committee’s assessment of the performance achievement of two, equally-weighted financial objectives. The following scale applies to all performance stock unit awards: (i) Threshold performance will result in the NEOs earning 25% of the shares; (ii) Target performance will result in the NEOs earning 100% of the shares; and (iii) Maximum performance will result in the NEOs earning 200% of the shares. Failure to attain the Threshold level of performance will result in the forfeiture of all shares potentially issuable in connection with such performance stock unit awards.

Fifty percent of the award was based on three-year tangible book value growth objectives. The Targets and corresponding performance range requires meaningful growth over the three-year performance period. Elsewhere in this Proxy Statement, we also refer to these awards as Internal Metric Performance Stock Units or “IM PSUs.”

Fifty percent of the award was based on relative return on tangible common equity (“ROTCE”) of the Company ranked in terms of a percentile in relation to the three-year ROTCE for the same period of a peer group consisting of the companies comprising the KBW Nasdaq Regional Banking Index (“KRX”). In addition, the performance stock units awards have a relative Total Shareholder Return (“TSR”) modifier comparing the Company to the KRX. Dividend equivalents accrue, and are credited, with respect to the award to the extent dividends are paid on the Common Stock but are paid out only when, and if, the award is earned. Awards earned will vest on December 31, 2023, which is the end of the three-year performance period, and shares in respect of such awards will become issuable upon the
 
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Compensation Committee’s certification of the Company’s performance for the performance period, which would be expected to occur in the first quarter of 2024. If the Company delivers three-year TSR that falls between the 25th and 75th percentiles, relative to the KRX, then no adjustment to the payout determined by the cumulative EPS goal will be applied. However, if performance is below the 25th percentile of the KRX, then a 20% discount will be applied to the earned award. Further, if performance is above the 75th percentile of the KRX, then a 20% premium would be applied to the earned award. Regardless of performance, the total award cannot exceed 200% of Target. Elsewhere in this Proxy Statement, we also refer to these awards as Total Shareholder Return Performance Stock Units of  “TSR PSUs.”

Time-based Restricted Stock (50% of long-term incentive award) — Shares of restricted stock are awarded subject to transfer and vesting restrictions. Restricted stock awards are intended to build stock ownership and foster executive retention. All of the NEOs received restricted stock awards on February 18, 2021. All of these restricted stock awards have dividend and voting rights and vest in equal installments over a three-year period; however, with respect to restricted stock awards granted after 2021, dividend equivalents will accrue and be credited with respect to such awards to the extent dividends are paid on the Common Stock, but will only be paid out when, and if, such awards vest.
2019 — 2021 Performance-Based Restricted Stock
In addition, in March 2022, additional shares of Common Stock were issued to certain NEOs in respect of the performance-based restricted stock grants issued in 2019 which vested in 2022 and exceeded the Target level of the applicable performance condition. A summary of the performance goals and actual results is set forth below.
Performance
Condition
Internal Financial Goal (EPS)
Threshold
Target
Maximum
Actual
Operating EPS(1) $ 4.26 $ 4.50 $ 4.75 $ 5.29
(Required CAGR)(2) (8)% (10)% (12)% (16)%
Incentive Payout 50% 100% 200% 200%
(1)
Internal financial goal was set based on CAGR from 2018 Operating EPS of  $3.38.
(2)
CAGR = Compound Annual Growth Rate
Based on the Company’s outstanding performance, participants were issued the following additional performance shares pursuant to these 2019 stock grants to deliver maximum payouts.
NEO
2019-2021 Plan
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr.
Nicole S. Stokes 3,693
Lawton E. Bassett, III 4,308
Jon S. Edwards 3,693
James A. LaHaise 3,693
In addition, the performance-based restricted stock grants issued in 2019 which vested in 2022 had a relative TSR modifier which compared the Company to the KRX. If the CAGR 12% target for maximum payout was achieved but the TSR was in the bottom quartile of the KRX, then the payout would be reduced by 20%. If the CAGR target achieved was less than the maximum payout, but the TSR was in the top quartile, then the payout level would be increased by 20%. This modifier was not applied in calculating the actual payout because the three-year TSR as of the end of the performance period fell between the 25th and 75th percentiles relative to the KRX.
Mr. Proctor was employed by Fidelity in 2019 when these performance shares were granted and therefore did not participate in these awards.
 
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Perquisites
We provide our NEOs with minimal perquisites, such as a company car. Additional details on perquisites are provided in a supplementary table to the Summary Compensation Table included in “Executive Compensation — Compensation Tables.”
We view certain perquisites as being beneficial to the Company, in addition to being directly compensatory to the executive officers. For example, company cars, which are provided to certain executive officers based on business needs, are used primarily for business purposes. In addition, these perquisites, as a minor expense to the Company, provide a useful benefit in our efforts to recruit, attract and retain top executive talent.
Retirement Benefits
The Bank and certain executive officers and other employees of the Bank and the Company entered into Supplemental Executive Retirement Agreements (each, a “Retirement Agreement”), the purpose of which is to provide a select group of employees who are expected to contribute significantly to the future business success of the Company and the Bank with supplemental retirement income and death benefits. Such benefits are meant to retain quality executive talent over a long period of time, which is required in order to execute long-term strategy. Each Retirement Agreement provides for the payment of an annual retirement benefit, payable in monthly installments, commencing when the employee reaches age 65, provided that the employee remains employed by the Bank until the required age of 65. Included among the officers entering into a Retirement Agreement were Messrs. Bassett, Edwards and LaHaise and Ms. Stokes, all of whom are named executive officers, and each of whom is to receive annual retirement benefits under his or her respective Retirement Agreement as follows: (i) Mr. Bassett, $75,000 for 15 years; (ii) Mr. Edwards $100,000 for 15 years; (iii) Mr. LaHaise $100,000 for 10 years; and (iv) Ms. Stokes, $50,000 for 15 years.
Each Retirement Agreement provides for a reduced benefit in the event that the employee terminates his or her employment prior to reaching the required age. If the termination is voluntary and without “good reason” ​(as defined in the Retirement Agreements), then the termination benefit is equal to the liability balance then accrued in the Company’s accounting records for the employee, to be paid out in monthly installments ratably over a period of 10 years; however, Messrs. Bassett, Edwards and LaHaise and Ms. Stokes do not become vested in this benefit until after the 10-year anniversary of the date of his or her Retirement Agreement. If the termination of employment is involuntary and without “cause” ​(as defined in the Retirement Agreements), or is voluntary but with good reason, then the termination benefit is equal to the liability balance then accrued in the Company’s accounting records for the employee, to be paid out in monthly installments ratably over a period of 10 years commencing at retirement age. If the employee is terminated for cause at any time, then all remaining benefits under his or her Retirement Agreement will be forfeited.
Each Retirement Agreement also provides that if the applicable employee dies prior to reaching the required age, then the annual retirement benefit will be payable in monthly installments to the employee’s beneficiary for a period of 10 years, commencing upon the employee’s death. In addition, if the employee becomes disabled prior to reaching the required age, then the employee will be entitled to a benefit equal to the liability balance then accrued in the Company’s accounting records for the employee, to be paid out in monthly installments ratably over a period of 10 years, commencing at the time of disability.
Under the Retirement Agreement, the following terms shall have the accompanied meanings:
(i)
“cause” means: (a) the commission of an act by the employee involving gross negligence, willful misconduct or moral turpitude that is materially damaging to the business, customer relations, operations or prospects of the Company or the Bank that brings the Company or the Bank into public disrepute or disgrace; (b) the commission of an act by the employee constituting dishonesty or fraud against the Company or the Bank; (c) the employee is convicted of, or pleads guilty or nolo contendere to, any crime involving breach of trust or moral turpitude or any felony; or (d) a consistent pattern of failure by the employee to follow the reasonable written instructions or policies of the employee’s supervisor or the Board.
 
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(ii)
“good reason” means: (a) a material reduction in the employee’s rate of regular compensation from the Bank; (b) a relocation of the employee’s principal place of employment by more than 50 miles, other than to an office or location closer to the employee’s home residence and except for required travel on Bank business to an extent substantially consistent with the employee’s business travel obligations as of the date of relocation; or (c) a material reduction in the employee’s authority, duties, title or responsibilities, other than any change resulting solely from a change in the publicly-traded status of the Company or the Bank. Provided, however, that employee must provide notice to the Company and the Bank of the condition employee contends is Good Reason within 90 days following the initial existence of the condition giving rise to Good Reason termination, provides at least 30 days advance written notice to the Company or Bank explaining the same, and the Company and the Bank must have a period of 30 days to remedy the Good Reason following such notice.
Executive officers are also eligible to participate in our 401(k) and profit sharing retirement plan, which is a Company-wide, tax-qualified retirement plan. The intent of this plan is to provide all employees with a tax-advantaged savings opportunity for retirement. We sponsor this plan to help employees in all levels of the Company save and accumulate assets for use during their retirement. As required, eligible pay under this plan is capped at annual limits in the Code. The Company offers a discretionary match to employee contributions based upon the performance of the Company and subject to the approval of the Board. Company contributions to the 401(k) and profit sharing plan vest in equal annual installments over a five-year period.
In addition, we also provide our employees with an employee stock purchase plan, which provides the employee with the opportunity to purchase shares of Common Stock via payroll deduction. The minimum purchase is $25, and the plan does not provide discounts or look-back features. The plan covers the administrative costs involved in the purchase of the stock.
Health and Welfare Plans
The named executive officers are eligible to participate in Company-sponsored benefit plans on the same terms and conditions as those generally provided to salaried employees. Basic health benefits, dental benefits and similar programs are provided to make certain that access to healthcare and income protection is available to our employees and their family members. Health benefits also include a Section 125 plan or a health savings account to provide for pre-tax deferral for non-reimbursable health expenses. The cost of Company-sponsored benefit plans is negotiated with the providers of such benefits, and the executive officers contribute to the cost of the benefits.
Severance Agreements
On May 7, 2019, the Company and the Bank entered into a Severance Protection and Restrictive Covenants Agreement (each, a “Severance Agreement”) with each of Messrs. Bassett, Edwards and LaHaise and Ms. Stokes. In the case of each of Messrs. Bassett, Edwards and LaHaise, the Severance Agreement replaced and superseded his prior employment agreement, which automatically terminated with the execution of the Severance Agreement. The Severance Agreements were entered into following a review of executive compensation matters conducted by the Compensation Committee during which the Compensation Committee determined to provide similar terms to all executive officers for the payment of severance and other benefits upon any termination of their employment.
Each Severance Agreement provides that, in the event of termination of the executive’s employment by the Company without “cause” ​(as defined in the Severance Agreement) or by the executive for “good reason” ​(as defined in the Severance Agreement), the Company will pay to the executive, subject to the execution of a release of claims, certain accrued but unpaid amounts and the following severance benefits: (i) equal semi-monthly installments for two years in accordance with the Company’s normal payroll practices, totaling two times the sum of  (a) the executive’s base salary and (b) the executive’s target cash bonus opportunity for the year in which the termination of employment occurred; (ii) a pro-rata portion of the cash bonus, if any, that the executive would have earned for the year during which the termination of employment occurred, based on the achievement of applicable performance goals; and
 
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(iii) reimbursement for any monthly COBRA premium paid for a period of as many as eighteen months. If a termination without cause or for good reason occurs at the time of, or within one year after, a “change of control” of the Company (as defined in the Severance Agreement), then the amounts described in clause (i) will be paid in a lump sum instead of installments.
In the event of termination of the executive’s employment on account of the executive’s death or disability, the executive (or his or her estate) will be entitled to receive, in addition to certain accrued but unpaid amounts, a pro-rata portion of the cash bonus, if any, that the executive would have otherwise earned for the year during which the termination of employment occurred, based on the achievement of applicable performance goals.
Each Severance Agreement also includes certain restrictive covenants that limit the executive’s ability to compete with the Company and the Bank and to solicit, or attempt to solicit, certain customers and employees for a period of two years after termination or to divulge certain confidential information concerning the Company or the Bank for any purpose other than as necessary in the executive’s performance of his or her duties.
Under the Severance Agreement, the following terms have the accompanied meanings:
(i)
“cause” means: (a) the willful and continued failure of employee to perform employee’s duties with the Company and the Bank, other than any such failure resulting from disability, or to follow the directives of the Board or a more senior executive of the Company or the Bank, following written notice; (b) employee’s willful misconduct or gross negligence in connection with the Company’s or the Bank’s business or relating to employee’s duties hereunder; (c) a willful act by employee which constitutes a material breach of employee’s fiduciary duty to the Company or the Bank; (d) employee’s habitual substance abuse; (e) employee’s being convicted of, or pleading guilty or nolo contendere to, a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude; (f) employee’s willful theft, embezzlement or act of comparable dishonesty against the Company or the Bank; (g) a material breach by employee of the Severance Agreement, which breach is not cured (if curable) by employee within a specified period following notice; or (h) conduct by employee that results in the permanent removal of employee from employee’s position as an officer or employee of the Company or the Bank pursuant to a written order by any banking regulatory agency with authority or jurisdiction over the Company or the Bank, as the case may be.
(ii)
“good reason” means: (a) a material reduction in the aggregate amount of employee’s base salary plus annual and long-term incentive compensation opportunities; (b) a material diminution in employee’s authority, duties or responsibilities; (c) a material change in the geographic location at which employee must regularly perform the services to be performed by employee pursuant to the Severance Agreement; and (d) any other action or inaction that constitutes a material breach by the Company and the Bank of the Severance Agreement; provided, however, that employee must provide notice to the Company and the Bank of the condition employee contends is good reason within 90 days after the initial existence of the condition, and the Company and the Bank must have a period of 30 days to remedy the condition. If the condition is not remedied within such 30-day period, then the employee must provide a notice of termination within 30 days after the end of the remedy period.
(iii)
“change of control” means, subject to certain exceptions, the occurrence of any of the following events: (a) any individual, entity or group (a “Person”) becomes the beneficial owner of 30% or more of either (1) the then-outstanding shares of Common Stock (the “Outstanding Company Common Stock”) or (2) the combined voting power of the then-outstanding voting securities of the Company entitled to vote generally in the election of directors (the “Outstanding Company Voting Securities”); provided, however, the following acquisitions shall not constitute a change of control: (w) any acquisition directly from the Company; (x) any acquisition by the Company; (y) any acquisition by any employee benefit plan (or related trust) sponsored or maintained by the Company; or (z) any acquisition pursuant to a transaction that complies with clauses (c)(1), (c)(2) and (c)(3) below; (b) individuals who, as of the effective date of the Severance Agreement, constitute the Board (the “Incumbent Board”) cease for any reason to constitute at least a
 
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majority of the Board; provided, however, that any individual becoming a director subsequent to the effective date whose election, or nomination for election by our shareholders, was approved by a vote of at least a majority of the directors then comprising the Incumbent Board shall be considered as though such individual was a member of the Incumbent Board, but excluding, for this purpose, any such individual whose initial assumption of office occurs as a result of an actual or threatened election contest with respect to the election or removal of directors or other actual or threatened solicitation of proxies or consents by or on behalf of a Person other than the Board; (c) consummation of a reorganization, merger, statutory share exchange or consolidation or similar transaction involving the Company or any of its subsidiaries, a sale or other disposition of all or substantially all of the assets of the Company, or the acquisition of assets or stock of another entity by the Company or any of its subsidiaries, in each case unless, following such business combination, (1) all or substantially all of the individuals and entities that were the beneficial owners of the Outstanding Company Common Stock and the Outstanding Company Voting Securities immediately prior to such business combination beneficially own, directly or indirectly, greater than 50% of the then-outstanding shares of common stock (or, for a non-corporate entity, equivalent securities) and the combined voting power of the then-outstanding voting securities entitled to vote generally in the election of directors (or equivalent governing body), as the case may be, of the entity resulting from such business combination (including, without limitation, an entity that, as a result of such transaction, owns the Company or all or substantially all of the Company’s assets either directly or through one or more subsidiaries) in substantially the same proportions as their ownership immediately prior to such business combination of the Outstanding Company Common Stock and the Outstanding Company Voting Securities, as the case may be, (2) no Person (excluding any entity resulting from such business combination or any employee benefit plan (or related trust) of the Company or such entity resulting from such business combination) beneficially owns, directly or indirectly, 30% or more of, respectively, the then-outstanding shares of common stock of the corporation (or equivalent securities) resulting from such business combination or the combined voting power of the then-outstanding voting securities of such entity, except to the extent that such ownership existed prior to the business combination, and (3) at least a majority of the members of the board of directors (or equivalent governing body) of the entity resulting from such business combination were members of the Incumbent Board at the time of the execution of the initial agreement or of the action of the Board providing for such business combination; or (d) approval by the shareholders of the Company of a complete liquidation or dissolution of the Company.
We do not maintain a separate severance plan for Mr. Proctor. Severance benefits for Mr. Proctor are limited to those set forth in the Company’s employment agreement with Mr. Proctor (the “Proctor Employment Agreement”). See “Executive Compensation — Employment Agreements.”
Other Compensation Program Aspects
Stock Ownership Requirements
To further ensure that the long-term interests of the Company’s senior management are aligned with those of our shareholders, the named executive officers, as well as the Company’s non-employee directors, are required by the Company’s stock ownership guidelines to acquire and maintain a specified investment in the Company. Our current guidelines require our non-employee directors to own five times their annual cash retainer in Company stock. We require our Chief Executive Officer to own stock with a market value equivalent to six times the executive’s base salary and all other named executive officers to own stock with a market value equivalent to three times the executive’s base salary. All executives and non-employee directors must retain 50% of the net shares (after vesting, net of any tax withholdings) until the ownership requirements are attained. During the annual review conducted in 2021, it was determined that all conditions of our share ownership policy were being met at that time.
 
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Insider Trading Policy; Hedging Restrictions
The Board has adopted an insider trading policy statement. The provisions of this policy expressly prohibit directors, officers and other employees of the Company and its subsidiaries from trading, either directly or indirectly, in securities of the Company after becoming aware of material nonpublic information related to the Company. To further ensure adherence with this policy, guidelines have been established for blackout periods and for appropriate disclosure of internal information to external parties. The insider trading policy provides guidance as to what constitutes material information and when information becomes public. The insider trading policy addresses transactions by family members and under Company plans, as well as other transactions which may be prohibited, such as short-term trading, short sales, publicly trading in options, hedging transactions and post-termination transactions. The policy discusses the consequences of an insider trading violation, additional trading restrictions and certain reporting requirements applicable to directors, officers and designated key employees. The policy requires all senior officers, including all named executive officers, to provide written certification of their understanding of, and intent to comply with, the policy.
The insider trading policy also expressly prohibits all officers, directors and employees of the Company and its subsidiaries from engaging in short sales of Company securities or engaging in any other type of transaction where they will earn a profit based on a decline in the Company’s stock price, or otherwise enter into any hedging or similar arrangement with respect to Company securities.
Equity Grant Policy and Practices
A grant of equity compensation to eligible persons generally is awarded on an annual basis. The Compensation Committee has adopted a schedule and process of reviewing the program provisions and grant levels in the first quarter of the year to coincide with the annual performance management compensation review process established by the Company for all officers and other employees. The Compensation Committee specifically approves all grants of equity compensation to named executive officers, other officers covered by Section 16(a) of the Exchange Act and other key employees, including the determination of the grant date for those awards.
Compensation Program Risk
We do not believe that our compensation programs encourage excessive or inappropriate risk-taking. The Compensation Committee annually reviews, with the assistance of the Company’s senior risk officers, compensation arrangements, agreements and benefit plans of the Company made available to the named executive officers and to all other employees of the Company to ensure that such arrangements, agreements and benefit plans do not encourage those employees to take unnecessary and excessive risks that could threaten the financial condition of the Company.
In connection with this review, the Compensation Committee reviews an inventory of its executive and non-executive compensation programs, with particular emphasis on incentive compensation plans or programs. The Compensation Committee evaluates, with the assistance of appropriate officers of the Company, the primary components of its compensation plans and practices to identify whether those components, either alone or in combination, properly balance compensation opportunities and risk. The Compensation Committee considers various risk-mitigating policies and terms adopted by the Company in connection with this analysis, including the Company’s stock ownership requirements, incentive compensation and clawback provisions. The Compensation Committee concluded, after such review, that the arrangements, agreements and benefit plans of the Company do not encourage those employees to take such risks. The Compensation Committee expects to continue monitoring and periodically evaluating these incentive compensation arrangements, agreements and benefit plans at least annually, as part of the Company’s oversight of risk management for the organization.
Compensation Committee Interlocks and Insider Participation
None of Messrs. Bullard, Hill, Jeter or Stern, each of whom is a member of the Compensation Committee, is or has been an officer or employee of the Company.
 
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Compensation Committee Report
The Compensation Committee has reviewed and discussed the “Compensation Discussion and Analysis” in this Proxy Statement with the Company’s management and, based on such review and discussions, has recommended to the Board that the “Compensation Discussion and Analysis” be included in this Proxy Statement.
Submitted by the Compensation Committee:
Leo J. Hill (Chair)
Rodney D. Bullard
Daniel B. Jeter
William H. Stern
 
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Compensation Tables
Summary Compensation Table
The Summary Compensation Table below sets forth the total compensation awarded to, earned by or paid to our named executive officers for 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Name and Principal Position
Year
Salary
Bonus
Stock
Awards(1)
Option
Awards
Non-Equity
Incentive Plan
Compensation
Change in
Pension Value
and
Nonqualified
Deferred
Compensation
Earnings
All Other
Compensation(2)
Total
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr.
Chief Executive Officer
2021 $ 850,000 $ 0 $ 1,317,066 $ 0 $ 1,219,240 $ 0 $ 51,200 $ 3,437,506
2020 $ 850,000 $ 0 $ 893,793 $ 0 $ 938,131 $ 0 $ 58,377 $ 2,740,301
2019 $ 425,000 $ 0 $ 0 $ 0 $ 716,077 $ 0 $ 13,304 $ 1,154,381
Nicole S. Stokes
Corporate Executive
Vice President and Chief
Financial Officer
2021 $ 450,833 $ 0 $ 405,266 $ 0 $ 422,359 $ 10,286 $ 35,183 $ 1,323,927
2020 $ 440,000 $ 0 $ 297,931 $ 0 $ 371,357 $ 9,361 $ 55,470 $ 1,174,119
2019 $ 411,205 $ 0 $ 300,019 $ 0 $ 283,458 $ 8,507 $ 110,479 $ 1,113,668
Lawton E. Bassett, III
Corporate Executive Vice President, Chief Banking Officer and Bank President
2021 $ 500,000 $ 0 $ 354,584 $ 0 $ 466,180 $ 26,867 $ 29,283 $ 1,376,914
2020 $ 500,000 $ 0 $ 347,599 $ 0 $ 421,996 $ 24,451 $ 30,444 $ 1,324,490
2019 $ 472,066 $ 0 $ 349,982 $ 0 $ 322,111 $ 22,264 $ 51,715 $ 1,218,138
Jon S. Edwards
Corporate Executive
Vice President and Chief
Credit Officer
2021 $ 384,167 $ 0 $ 303,994 $ 0 $ 359,891 $ 80,864 $ 28,382 $ 1,157,298
2020 $ 375,000 $ 0 $ 297,931 $ 0 $ 316,497 $ 73,597 $ 45,210 $ 1,108,235
2019 $ 364,343 $ 0 $ 300,019 $ 0 $ 241,583 $ 67,314 $ 110,704 $ 1,083,964
James A. LaHaise
Corporate Executive
Vice President and Chief
Strategy Officer
2021 $ 416,667 $ 0 $ 354,584 $ 0 $ 396,253 $ 74,456 $ 33,179 $ 1,275,139
2020 $ 375,000 $ 0 $ 297,931 $ 0 $ 316,497 $ 67,423 $ 224,174 $ 1,281,025
2019 $ 364,343 $ 0 $ 300,019 $ 0 $ 241,583 $ 61,247 $ 27,440 $ 994,632
(1)
Represents the aggregate grant date fair values of the awards. For 2021 and 2020, grants were made in the form of: (i) restricted stock awards, which vest in equal installments over a three-year period; (ii) Internal Metric Performance Stock Units, which are based on tangible book value growth objectives over a three-year period; and (iii) Total Shareholder Return Performance Stock Units, which are based on relative ROTCE of the Company ranked in terms of a percentile in relation to the three-year ROTCE for the same period of a peer group consisting of the companies comprising the KRX and are subject to a TSR modifier comparing the Company to the KRX. For 2019, grants were made in the form of restricted stock, with 50% of the awards vesting after a three-year period and 50% of the awards vesting at the end of a three-year period provided that established performance goals are achieved. See the Grants of Plan-Based Awards in “Executive Compensation-Compensation Tables.”
(2)
Details on the amounts reported for All Other Compensation in 2021 are set forth in the following supplementary table:
Named Executive
Officer
Auto
Provision(a)
Dividends
Employer
401(k)
Match
Health and
Welfare(b)
Life
Insurance
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr. $ 5,500 $ 14,182 $ 8,700 $ 16,487 $ 6,331
Nicole S. Stokes. $ $ 9,456 $ 8,700 $ 16,487 $ 540
Lawton E. Bassett, III $ 1,772 $ 10,763 $ 8,700 $ 7,220 $ 828
Jon S. Edwards $ $ 9,067 $ 8,700 $ 8,239 $ 2,376
James A. LaHaise $ $ 9,310 $ 8,700 $ 12,793 $ 2,376
(a)
Amounts reported in the table reflect the personal-use levels of this perquisite.
(b)
Amounts incurred by the Company for the employer’s cost of providing health and welfare benefits.
 
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Grants of Plan-Based Awards
The Grants of Plan-Based Awards Table below sets forth the total number of equity awards granted in 2021 and the grant date fair values of those awards. The Grants of Plan-Based Awards Table should be read in conjunction with the Summary Compensation Table.
Estimated Future Payouts
Under Non-Equity
Incentive Plan Awards(1)
Estimated Future Payouts
Under Equity
Incentive Plan Awards(2)
All Other
Stock
Awards:
Number
of Shares
of Stock
or Units
(#)(3)
Grant
Date Fair
Value of
Stock
Awards(4)
Name
Plan/Grant
Date
Award Type
Threshold
($)
Target
($)
Maximum
($)
Threshold
(#)
Target
(#)
Maximum
(#)
H. Palmer Proctor, Jr. 2/18/2021 STI 425,000 850,000 1,445,000