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Trustmark posts record growth in banking maelstrom

While other banks are experiencing sluggish sales, Jackson-based Trustmark is posting record growth and opening new branches.

Trustmark’s third new full-service branch this year is under construction in the fast-growth area of Old Canton Road in Ridgeland. Other locations already underway are at Terry Road in south Jackson and at the intersection of Northside Drive and Pinehaven Drive in Clinton.

“This branch provides strategic positioning in a strong part of the Jackson market, offering opportunity to better and more conveniently meet the banking needs of consumers and small business customers,” said Richard G. Hickson, Trustmark’s CEO. “Trustmark continues to experience consistent growth as the dominant Mississippi–based financial services company. Jackson is an important part of our success.”

Trustmark Corporation, whose stock is traded on NASDAQ (TRMK) is the parent company of Trustmark National Bank, which operates 108 full service branches, 21 limited service branches, 11 in-store branches and 147 ATMs in Mississippi. With assets of $6.5 billion, it is the largest Mississippi-based banking company and operates in 11 of Mississippi’s 13 largest markets. Company records list 2,250 employees, with approximately 725 retail employees.

During the time long-term rival Deposit Guaranty Corp. was purchased by Nashville-based First American Corp., which was recently acquired itself by AmSouth, Trustmark focused on corporate objectives, said Billy Rainey, executive vice president and chief banking officer.

“We’re definitely bullish on the economy,” Rainey said. “The three areas with construction activity are in very strong growth areas combined with our already strong customer base.”

“Our secret? We’ve always been committed to customer service. Last year, we implemented a proactive sales culture throughout our system. That, along with quality service we’ve always strived to give our customers, has paid off for us system-wide, especially in the metro Jackson area,” Rainey said.

The three branches currently under construction are the only new branches slated for 1999, he said.

“Of course, we’re always looking for the configuration of our branch network and we feel there’s more opportunity in the metro Jackson area,” Rainey said.

Within a quarter of a mile from the upcoming Clinton location is an existing Trustmark location that was acquired in the Unifirst merger, Rainey said.

“It was too small and we couldn’t offer our customers the services they really needed,” he said. “It gave us a good opportunity to move right down the road and build a much larger branch to handle a whole lot more volume and to offer amenities such as safety deposit boxes.”

Compared to previous growth activity, three branches under construction at the same time is “a little outside the norm,” Rainey said.

“We don’t have a particular prototype for branch design,” he said. “It varies according to location.”

In 1998, strong performance indicators contributed to Trustmark’s placement as No. 11 in U.S. Banker’s annual performance rating of the 100 largest banks. Trustmark’s net income increased 17.2% to $83.3 million. Key profitability ratios improved with return on equity progressing from 12.67% to 13.53% and return on assets grew from 1.34% to 1.41%. Earnings per share jumped from 98 cents to $1.14.

While retail loans gained by 31.7%, total loans improved 24.4% without a blunder in credit quality.

“We have accomplished these goals by having sound policies and procedures and by having a sales force that knows the market and customer base,” Rainey said.

The creation of a disciplined needs-based sales culture is paying off, he said.

“We start Monday morning off at every branch with a sales meeting,” he said. “We establish goals and hold workshops to reach those goals. Throughout the week, we’re constantly inspecting what we expect. We don’t wait until Friday afternoon to see what we’ve done. We’re doing a whole lot more listening to pick up clues on customers’ basic financial needs. We’ve found that most customers know what they want, they just don’t know all the options available.”

Last year, almost 15,000 new accounts were opened under the marketing product Trustmark’s Total Umbrella checking.

“The new accounts are coming from a broad range of all competitors and from our own market by doing a better job cross-selling,” he said. “There’s also strong growth in the metro Jackson area with new families moving in. With the sales culture, we are doing a much better job of cross-selling existing customers. For instance, we might have had a customer who only had a credit card with Trustmark. We might try to cross-sell them a checking account or CD.”

First quarter 1999 earnings were equally impressive. Total interest income increased 11% to $109.5 million and net income jumped 23% to $24.1 million.

Trustmark’s foray into the insurance industry was marked when its previously announced merger with The Bottrell Agency was completed on April 9. The deal was sealed with a tax-free exchange of stock with the agency that provided surety bonds, property and casualty, and life and health insurance products throughout Mississippi.

Year 2000 compliance testing was successfully completed in the first quarter of this year.

“We’re excited about our growth,” Rainey said. “You’ll see more in the future.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@msbusiness.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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