Stone Bank Overcomes Rocky Start

Stone Bank Overcomes Rocky Start

The pending sale of Stone Bancshares Inc. and its $650 million-asset Stone Bank of Mountain View provides the latest twist in the story of the 67-year-old franchise.

Chartered in April 1955, the tiny lender launched as First National Bank of Altheimer in its namesake Jefferson County community. It operated there for more than half a century.

New investors, led by Marvin Sutterfield, began work on a deal to acquire the struggling lender during 2008. That year, the bank recorded a $993,000 loss, a number that surpassed its combined profit for 1998-2007.

First National ranked as the smallest bank in Arkansas with total assets of $10.7 million when the Sutterfield-led group entered the ownership picture on March 31, 2009, and moved the charter 140 miles north from the flat farmland of southeast Arkansas to the Ozark Mountains.

Total assets of First National, recast as Ozark Heritage Bank of Mountain View, mushroomed to $56 million by the end of the year. But three years of losses totaling more than $1.7 million accompanied the rapid growth.

Regulatory actions against the bank, shareholder lawsuits against the bank management and a change in leadership highlighted that turbulent time.

In August 2010, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ordered Ozark Heritage to improve its capital ratios and its management team.

In August 2012, the OCC issued a cease and desist order against Sutterfield, former president and chief lending officer, for unsafe and unsound practices.

Sandwiched between those regulatory orders, Marnie Oldner was hired as CEO of Ozark Heritage in July 2011. Oldner arrived from Murfreesboro’s Diamond Bank, where she was president and CEO.

Under her leadership, Ozark Heritage produced consecutive annual profits during 2012-22 while branching into Little Rock and Harrison in 2016 and opening a loan production office in Cave City in 2018.

Four months after the bank emerged from heightened OCC oversight, Oldner oversaw its rebranding to Stone Bank in August 2015.

The bank’s growth was accelerated by the nearly $10.3 million stock swap-cash purchase of DBT Financial Corp., holding company of the $88.9 million-asset DeWitt Bank & Trust in September 2019.

Finally, on Dec. 21, Stone Bank announced that the Combs family of Missouri had agreed to buy it and its parent company, Stone Bancshares, for an undisclosed price.

The Combs family has ownership in four banks chartered in Branson, Kimberling City, Alton and Grandin, Missouri. The family also has interests in the hospitality business and real estate.

Colorado Development

Little Rock’s Encore Bank is transforming its loan production operation in Boulder, Colorado, into a full-service branch.

The $2.7 billion-asset lender will set up shop in historic downtown space at 1911 11th St., known as the Walnut Eleven Building.

Through the first nine months of 2022, Encore recorded a loss of nearly $1.3 million as it continues to develop a multistate footprint. That number reflects an $816,000 profit in the third quarter.

The bank is on the ground with 13 full-service locations in five states. At last count, Encore intends to develop eight more full-service locations in Denver; Charlotte, Raleigh and Winston-Salem in North Carolina; Greenville, South Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; and Arlington, Texas.

An office in Birmingham, Alabama, is no longer part of the picture a year after Encore ventured into the market with two hires. 

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