Southern Bancorp, Inc. is one of America’s largest rural development banks with approximately $1.1 billion in assets, serving over 80,000 customers at 39 branches in both Arkansas and Mississippi. Southern was founded in 1986 by then Governor Bill Clinton, Wal-Mart Chair Rob Walton, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and others who were concerned about the economic decline of rural Arkansas. Southern invests in people and businesses in rural communities, empowers them to improve their lives and helps them transform their communities.
Arkadelphia's Southern Bancorp Inc. is paying $28 million cash for FCB Financial Services Inc., the holding company of Jonesboro's Premier Bank of Arkansas. The addition of the $227.4 million-asset bank, which operates full-service offices in Craighead and Crittenden counties, will enlarge Southern Bancorp's footprint to 16 Arkansas counties. The deal will also provide the gateway to Jonesboro, Marion and West Memphis for the $2 billion-asset Southern Bancorp Bank. The community development lender will step into those markets where Premier holds deposits of: $155.3 million in West Memphis, an 11.82% share that ranks third among eight banks in the $1.3 billion-deposit market; $130.5 million in Marion, a 36.31% share that is tops among five banks in the $359 million-deposit market; $12.8 million in Jonesboro, a 0.36% share that ranks 18th among 20 banks in the $3.5 billion-deposit market.
It took more than a decade for Southern Bancorp Bank to double its tally of total assets from $1 billion to $2 billion. The top executive of the bank's parent company expects the journey to $4 billion will be much shorter. "With the amount of capital we're going to receive, we will double in size during the next three to five years," said Darrin Williams, CEO of Southern Bancorp Inc. A big catalyst for that future growth is a $237.5 million injection courtesy of the U.S. Treasury's Emergency Capital Investment Program. The money isn't in the bank but is expected to arrive in the second or third quarter. "That will give us the capital bandwidth to work for quite awhile," Williams said. The money will double Southern Bancorp's capital base and position the Arkadelphia bank to accelerate expansion of its $1.2 billion loan portfolio. Under the ECIP, a maximum investment of $250 million was possible, but Williams isn't complaining.
Darrin Williams, an attorney and former Arkansas state representative, wasn't interested when Southern Bancorp, Inc. approached him about a leadership position in 2013. His wife, however, reminded him of how rewarding he'd found it to facilitate a financial principles course at his church. Williams reconsidered and became CEO of Southern Bancorp, a group of three community development financial institutions (CDFI): Southern Bancorp Inc., the holding company; Southern Bancorp Bank, a $2 billion-asset community bank headquartered in Arkadelphia, Ark.; and Southern Bancorp Community Partners, a $40 million nonprofit loan fund. Since then, Williams has developed a strong vision of how community banks and CDFIs can partner to build more prosperous communities. "CDFIs are economic and financial first responders for people who are not well served by traditional banks," he says. "I'm issuing a call to action for community banks and CDFIs to work better together."