Mississippi-based Hancock Holding Co. is becoming Hancock Whitney Corp., and will begin calling all its branches by that name early next year.

The company had operated as Whitney Bank in Louisiana and Texas, and Hancock Bank in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida, since Hancock took over New Orleans-based Whitney in 2011.

Bank leaders said some people were already calling the bank by the new moniker, and Hancock tipped its hand when it leased space in New Orleans' tallest skyscraper, One Shell Square, this summer and announced it was moving Whitney's local operations there. That building will become Hancock Whitney Center in the first half of 2018. The company already is using the new name for its website and mobile banking application.

CEO John Hairston called the name change a "natural progression" in remarks to investors.

"This is really about clarity and simplicity eliminating the awkwardness of dealing with both brands," Hairston said.

The company will remain headquartered in Gulfport and the bank will continue to operate under a Mississippi state charter.

There are 95 Whitney branches in south Louisiana. As of June 30, those branches had more than $11.8 billion in assets, according to the FDIC. Hancock Whitney is the third-largest bank in the state, with a 13 percent share of deposits. Only Capital One, which has 17.6 percent of deposits, and Chase, which has 17.4 percent, are larger. 

At the time of the merger, officials said retaining the Whitney name was "very, very important" because the strength of the brand in Louisiana and Texas. 

Whitney was traditionally known for its strong commerce and industry banking business, while Hancock’s focus was more in real estate and consumer lending.