Reynie Rutledge, Chairman of First Security Bancorp of Searcy on Banking Growth (Exec Q&A)

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 12:00 am  

Reynie RutledgeChairmanFirst Security Bancorp of Searcy

Reynie Rutledge graduated from the University of Arkansas with a degree in industrial engineering and later received an MBA from the same school. He has sat on numerous boards, including the Arkansas Bankers Association, Harding University’s business advisory board and the dean’s executive advisory board for UA’s Sam M. Walton College of Business. Rutledge has been involved in the banking industry for almost 40 years.

Q: What are some growth areas for First Security?

Rutledge: Arkansas is our focus. We all know the economy is not as good as it has been or will be, and therefore we see the improving local economies as a growth area for our company. We have no plans to grow outside of the state; we want to focus on continuing our growth in communities throughout the state and helping businesses of all sizes.

We note a new branch application in Bentonville when many other banks have regretted their northwest Arkansas adventures. What’s your take on that part of the state?

I don’t think it’s any surprise to the business community that the northwest Arkansas market is much different than it was four to five years ago. There has been gradual improvement in the area’s economy, and we believe, like many others, that the coming years will be strong. We’re investing in the future of all of Arkansas, including northwest Arkansas.

We also note that a couple of competitors are building new branches in your backyard. What’s so attractive about Searcy these days? Searcy is where we started; it’s our home and where our roots are planted. Like most of north-central Arkansas in the Fayetteville Shale Play, Searcy was insulated from the economic slowdown others faced due to the boom in gas exploration. With weak natural gas prices and the decline in exploration, the local economy is not as rosy, but Searcy is still a great community in which to live and raise a family.

What would you like to see happen with interest rates?

The current rate environment is not sustainable because rates are too low for investors. Even though borrowers are getting a great deal, it is coming at the expense of depositors. Rates will increase, which will deliver higher rates of return, which will be better for everyone. We must be careful as the process to increase rates occurs, so as not to cause the pricing of credit to hurt our economic recovery.

As the aftermath of the Great Recession continues to play out, what lessons would you say you learned during those years?

Be consistent. Don’t take too much risk when things are going well, so that you’re able to sustain positive momentum even when times are tough. There will always be ups and downs in the business cycle and our economy. The three C’s of banking are as important today as they have been in the past: character, collateral and cash flow. Bankers who have survived the past know these lending fundamentals are still important.

First Security Bank has been very profitable, to put it mildly. Are there other worlds for the Rutledge family to conquer, other businesses to invest in?

Sure, we could always invest in other businesses, but that’s not what we do. We are wholly committed to the Arkansas banking industry. We’re interested in helping grow the economy and ensuring that small businesses get the financing they need to prosper, hire local workers and stimulate the economy.

 

 

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