Arkansas Bank Assets Grow by 4.75 Percent

Assets held by banks headquartered in Arkansas grew by 4.75 percent to $61.3 billion during 2012 even as the number of individual charters remained almost stable.

Arvest Bank, by far the largest bank based in Arkansas, passed the $13 billion point for the first time in 2012, although its assets had topped $13.8 billion at the end of September before settling to just under $13.2 billion by year-end.

For context: That $626 million asset swing in one quarter exceeded the total assets of all but 17 of the other 126 banks chartered in the state, yet it represented less than 5 percent of Arvest’s assets.

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Arvest accounted for 21.5 percent of assets held by Arkansas-based banks at the end of 2012. Arvest operates in multiple states and its assets — primarily loans — can come from any of those states or even outside its operating footprint.

But the same is true of other banks that operate or make loans to borrowers outside Arkansas.

After a couple of announced acquisitions fell through, the number of active bank charters in Arkansas was reduced by only one last year.

State Holding Co. collapsed its two charters, Eagle Bank & Trust of Little Rock and Heber Springs State Bank. Heber Springs State ranked No. 50 among Arkansas-chartered banks at the end of 2011, and Eagle Bank was No. 82, but combined they moved up to No. 33.

First Security Bank of Searcy retained the No. 2 position for the second consecutive year while growing its assets by more than 7 percent to $4.3 billion.

Centennial Bank of Conway moved up a spot to No. 3 by growing its assets — many of which are now in its ever-expanding Florida market — to $4.2 billion. It was the first time the bank operated by publicly traded Home BancShares Inc. had topped the $4 billion mark and represented asset growth of 18 percent in a single year.

Centennial pushed Bank of the Ozarks of Little Rock, also publicly traded, into the No. 4 spot. BOZ’s assets remained virtually flat, growing less than 2 percent from $3.83 billion to $3.89 billion between Dec. 31, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2012.

Jonesboro’s Liberty Bank of Arkansas held steady at No. 5 with assets of $2.8 billion, virtually unchanged from 2011.

A couple of acquisitions in Missouri in 2012 helped Simmons First National Bank of Pine Bluff, the flagship of publicly traded Simmons First National Corp., cross the $2 billion threshold for the first time. But even asset growth of 12.5 percent wasn’t enough to budge Simmons First National from sixth place.

For the first time, Marty Casteel is listed as CEO of Simmons First National Bank, a reflection of the management changes taking place as J. Thomas May prepares to retire as CEO of Simmons First National Corp. 

Small Banks

Arkansas still has a lot of banks that can only be described as small. Of 126 charters, more than a quarter (34) had assets of less than $100 million as of Dec. 31.

Most of the small banks — all but four — were profitable in 2012. And those that find niches can be quite profitable: No. 116, Riverside Bank of Sparkman, earned more than $1.5 million on assets of $55 million, and Priority Bank of Ozark, No. 95, made $1.6 million on assets of $94 million.

Merchants & Farmers Bank of Dumas, led by J. Michael Jones, surpassed the $100 million milestone in 2012 for the first time thanks to 6 percent growth in assets.

Although it’s still a long way from $100 million, Merchants & Planters Bank of Clarendon increased its assets by 56 percent last year, growing from $42 million to $65.5 million.