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Community bank offering financial services through a third-party partner

Citizens State benefits from growth in South Mississippi

MAGEE — From a single, small storefront location in the rural town of Seminary, established in 1905, Citizens State Bank has prospered into one of the state’s strongest community banks.

With a primary service area of Covington, Scott, Simpson and Rankin counties in south central Mississippi, Magee-based Citizens State Bank, with 115 employees in 10 locations and approximately $215 million in total assets, is still considered a “true” community bank. Owned by Citizens Capital Corporation, a one-bank holding company, most of the 230 stockholders are local, and the nine-member board of directors lives within the immediate market area.

The Seminary branch still operates from its storefront location, but only until a brand new freestanding facility, located smack in the middle of the town’s entrance, where the road forks near the Baptist church, opens later this year.

“The unique thing about Seminary’s market is that, it’s not the town, it’s the surrounding area,” said Odean Busby, president and CEO. “There’s been so much building going on in the outlying areas. The Seminary School District is obviously where everybody wants to be in Covington County and the school is bursting at the seams because of people moving into the school district, not necessarily the town. It makes for a lot of business, more than many people really realize in a small town.”

Relationship banking and community involvement have been keys to success — for the bank and its customers, said Busby, who also serves as president of the Simpson County Economic Development Foundation.

“When we opened a nontraditional office branch in Hattiesburg on March 6, we saw it as an entry way into that market, primarily because Hattiesburg is such a natural extension of our existing market,” Busby said. “We have a lot of customers who moved to Hattiesburg from other markets, such as college students. We have good name recognition and we’re real pleased with the business we’ve developed there at this point. There’s no drive-thru service, no ATM, but after a base of business is developed, we expect to add more traditional banking-type offices — and services — in that market.”

While some banks are focusing on mergers and acquisitions and others are rapidly expanding, Citizens State Bank continues to grow at a slow and steady pace — except in the technology arena, where the bank hopped on the fast track fast. A user-friendly Web site designed in-house by staffers has provided fully interactive Internet banking for more than a year, with transaction options that include transfers of funds, account balances, bill paying, stop payments, check orders and other services. A cash management program, designed primarily for small businesses, provides business-related Internet banking options.

Citizens State Bank recently partnered with a third party, Invest, and hired two representatives as joint employees to provide specialized alternative investment services, such as mutual funds, annuities, long-term health care, and stock purchases — a fairly unique service for a smaller bank.

“We see community banks being a very viable option for many customers, especially if we take the position of being a community bank that lends itself to what the market wants at this point in time,” Busby said. “For instance, we have 10 brick-and-mortar branches in 10 different communities and our marketplace is a very good one, from Hattiesburg to Jackson. But we’re going beyond that to compete and to develop a market share for our customers in areas such as Internet banking, an in-house insurance agency and mortgage center.”

Citizens State Bank recently purchased land on U.S. 49 South in Richland, providing a natural extension on the Highway 49 corridor, where a new branch will be built next year, Busby said.

“Our approach is to be able to compete with any banks in the marketplace, but on a scale where we maintain a close working relationship with each customer,” he said. “Relationship banking is our most important product we offer.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at lwjeter@yahoo.com or (601) 853-3967.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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