Icon (Close Menu)


First Security Bancorp Burgeons Into Big Time

3 min read

These days, the First Security name is shared among 21 lenders in 15 states around the nation. But the biggest in the land by far is the $5.3 billion-asset financial institution that makes its home in Searcy.

Reynie Rutledge, chairman and CEO of First Security Bancorp and its namesake bank, had no idea the three-branch lender would become the company it has since he and his family entered the ownership picture nearly 42 year ago.

First Security generated interest and noninterest revenue of more than $241 million during 2018, ranking it among the largest private companies in Arkansas. Supported by a staff of 867, the banking franchise operates 78 full-service locations spread across 17 counties and 34 communities in Arkansas.

Rutledge credits the evolution of bank statutes, especially those governing holding companies and branching, for altering the landscape and providing expansion possibilities.

“The changes in those banking laws really made a difference for us,” he said. “We were really lucky with the timing of those law changes, which allowed us to take advantage of the opportunities.”

In addition to maintaining a steady rollout of new brick-and-mortar locations over the years, acquisitions helped accelerate the growth of First Security.

The deals began with a focus on solidifying its White County base with purchases of Griffithville’s First Bank in 1986, Judsonia’s Farmers & Merchants Bank in 1990 and Beebe’s Citizens Bank in 1991.

Beyond White County, the acquisition trail extended to Clarksville’s Farmers Bank & Trust in 1995 and Conway’s First Community Bank in 1997. A 24.1% stake in Mountain Home’s Peoples Bank & Trust in 1989 grew to outright ownership in 1999. The next decade saw purchases of Little Rock’s Crews & Associates Inc. securities firm in 2000, Springdale’s First National Bank in 2004 and Benton’s Union Bank in 2009.

The development of First Security into the second-largest privately held banking venture in Arkansas wasn’t part of a grand plan envisioned by Rutledge.

“I was too young and stupid to do that,” he said. “I got out of grad school and didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

Mulling over the question of milestones, Rutledge recalls the September 1977 purchase of First Security by his father and him in a deal backed with a $46 million loan from his former employer: Little Rock’s Worthen Bank & Trust.

“Our first challenge was to get that paid back,” he said.

A second milestone was when First Security Bancorp surpassed $1 billion in assets in March 1999. Among the surprises is the broad interest of a new generation of family members to be part of the company after exiting college.

Get The List
75 Largest Private Companies
Ranked by fiscal 2018 revenue of Arkansas-based, Arkansas-owned private companies.

“I had no interest in what direction the kids took,” said Rutledge, who grew up in Smackover. “I stayed away from trying to direct what they even wanted to major in. If they asked for advice, I’d offer it. As each one got to the point of going to work, they asked me if they could work in the business. I didn’t want them to do something just because I wanted them to. I was hoping one of them might. But all three do.”

John Rutledge is CEO and president of First Security Bank’s central Arkansas market. Adam Rutledge is CEO and president of First Security Bank’s northwest Arkansas market. Nathan, who also holds a law degree, is senior managing director at Crews & Associates, where he works in public finance.

Send this to a friend