Special to The Hays Daily News

Kansas-based Sunflower Financial Inc. and Colorado-based First Western Financial Inc. today jointly announced the signing of a definitive agreement to merge.

The pro forma combined company will have approximately $2.5 billion in banking assets and approximately $5.5 billion in trust and investment assets under management. The transaction creates a strong, focused regional institution with a unique private bank that will initially serve six states. The transaction partners a well-established and well-capitalized bank in Sunflower with a growth-oriented private bank and wealth management platform in First Western. The combined company’s fee income business will contribute approximately 40 percent of the pro forma company’s revenues. The combined banking footprint will include 45 offices in Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Wyoming, Arizona and California.

Mollie Hale Carter, chairwoman and CEO of Sunflower, will serve as executive chairman of the holding company. Scott Wylie, chairman and CEO of First Western, will be the chairman and CEO of the combined bank and investment management subsidiary, as well as CEO and president of the holding company. The combined board of directors will be made up of select legacy Sunflower directors, select legacy First Western directors, and new directors appropriate for the new institution’s strategic focus and direction.

Financial terms of the merger were not disclosed. The transaction has been unanimously approved by the board of directors of both Sunflower and First Western and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015, subject to shareholder and regulatory approval and other customary conditions.

“This is an exciting transaction for our associates, our clients and shareholders,” Carter said. “We believe the expanded wealth management expertise of First Western as well as the additional growth opportunities in our adjacent markets will provide a meaningful path to our success for years to come.”

“The strength and history of a 122-year-old bank will significantly add to the breadth and depth of support that we can provide to our clients,” Wylie said. “Our markets are similar in many ways and the combined footprint makes a lot of sense for our platform.”

Keefe Bruyette & Woods Inc. served as financial advisor to Sunflower and First Western; Raymond James Financial Inc. provided a fairness opinion to First Western. Nelson Mullins Riley Scarborough LLP served as legal counsel for Sunflower, and Hogan Lovells served as legal counsel for First Western.