Jerry Morgan, 47, joined Focus Bank of Charleston, Missouri, in 2013 as its community bank president for its three branches in the Jonesboro market. Focus Bank has 12 locations in Missouri and Arkansas with total assets of $734.9 million. Before joining Focus Bank, Morgan spent 21 years at Simmons First Bank of Pine Bluff. Morgan is chairman of the Jonesboro Advertising & Promotions Commission.
Morgan earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and an MBA from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. He was an Arkansas Business 40 Under 40 honoree in 2007.
You worked at a big bank; how is the competition between big vs. community banks since you’ve experienced both?
Many bankers will tell you that the northeast Arkansas market has some of the strongest competition for deposits and loans in the state and even country. As a community bank you just have to try to find your niche in the market and stay focused on what is working for your particular bank.
One advantage as a local bank is we are able to react quicker to decision-making and also changes in the marketplace that might dictate how we need to either deliver our services better or faster. We are also able to adjust our products to market conditions and the needs of our local customers, whereas a much larger bank many times has a “one-size-fits-all” approach to product pricing, delivery methods and processes. In my opinion, this has severely hindered many larger regional banks from really thriving and taking advantage of their economies of scale.
What would you like to see Congress do for community bankers?
Generate tailored regulatory relief that is based on the bank’s size, not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Well-intended regulations have taken the discretion out of the bankers’ hands. Loans that we could have made eight to 10 years ago we can’t approve anymore because the customer doesn’t fit all of the check boxes. This is true for not only mortgage loans but small business and commercial lending. Passing of tailored regulation this session would allow banks to help spur economic growth in our communities.
What are the biggest challenges for a community bank?
The regulatory requirements mentioned above are the biggest challenges for traditional community banks. The cost involved with maintaining the new regulations that have been put in place over the past five to 10 years has strangled many smaller community banks. This has forced them into consolidation mode with the ultimate losers being the communities they serve.
Why are community banks still an important part of the financial landscape?
Community banks continue to be the lifeblood of many smaller and rural towns across America and especially in Arkansas. With most civic or charity organizations, you will probably find local banks and bankers being the anchor to their success. We continue to give not only the donations to fund these organizations but, more importantly, the manpower to help them succeed. We are fortunate that many bankers in the larger banks across Arkansas began in much smaller organizations. Most have continued this tradition of giving back regardless of the size of their organizations, and the state as a whole continues to benefit.
What have you learned in the decade since you were a 40 Under 40 honoree?
Wow, when it is termed a “decade,” it makes me feel really old. The biggest career lesson is that you just have to love what you are doing. If you don’t enjoy your job then you can’t be passionate about it. I have also learned that there has to be a balance between work and your family life. This is an area that I constantly battle, but I try my best to maintain that balance.