Simmons First National Not Alone In Bank Branch Assessment

by George Waldon  on Monday, Sep. 16, 2013 12:00 am  

“You have to build critical mass to support and justify a full-service facility. I’d like to see [deposits of] $20 million in terms of a rock-bottom number. We do look at the average among branches in a market though.”

If the Simmons-Metropolitan combination results in some branch consolidation in central Arkansas, Wewers said First Federal needs to be on the list of interested parties.

First Federal, which has operated a loan production office in west Little Rock, is in the process of opening its first full-service location in central Arkansas. The company will set up shop in leased space formerly used by Centennial Bank at Little Rock’s Pavilion in the Park.

Expanding First Federal’s book of business and personnel are considerations before the company takes on another location.

“A pretty building on the outside isn’t as important as what’s on the inside,” Wewers said. “It starts with the people. We’re trying to make sure we’re being good stewards with good branches in good locations operated by good people.”

David Dowd, president and CEO of Cross County Bank of Wynne, wasn’t put off by the $9.6 million deposit base of a Brinkley branch that was shopped by Evolve Bank & Trust of West Memphis.

He liked what he saw at the profitable operation, which opened in October 2010.

“That was an opportunity that presented itself,” Dowd said. “Brinkley is not a whole lot different than any of our other markets. We felt like it had a really good staff who we could work with.”

The branch is one of four locations operated in Brinkley by three lenders. Signature Bank of Arkansas in Fayetteville, which bought the Bank of Brinkley in 2007, has two offices. BancorpSouth Bank of Tupelo, Miss., and Evolve operated one each.

The Brinkley branch will be Cross County Bank’s second location outside its namesake base. The first was in Jonesboro, which opened in April 2006. The deposit total there is at $19.6 million.

The markets for Little Rock’s Bank of the Ozarks run the gamut from tiny and rural such as Western Grove (Newton County) to the sprawling metro areas of Dallas and Atlanta.

“A relatively small branch can be very profitable in a small market,” said George Gleason, chairman and CEO of Bank of the Ozarks. “It really is an evaluation of cost, the operating cost of a branch and the quantity of business in that market.”



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