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Hometown banking, full-service facility on-site at Nissan

CANTON — When Nissan North America Inc. announced it was locating an automobile assembly plant in Madison County that would employ thousands of workers, and that it would be looking for one bank to offer on-site services, prospective financial institutions quickly got in line. It took Nissan more than a year to sift through the prospects and choose a winner.

Nissan’s selection may have surprised some. BankPlus, which is headquartered in quiet Belzoni in the heart of the Mississippi Delta but already had offices in Madison County, certainly was not the largest financial institution that asked for Nissan’s business. But as it turns out, Nissan was not looking for size, but rather quality.

“They’re just a good, down-home bank,” Galen Medlin, director of human resources at Nissan-Canton told the Mississippi Business Journal when BankPlus was announced the winner in the summer of 2002.

Two years later, Medlin said Nissan is confident it made the right choice. “The banks were evaluated on services, cost of services to employees, along with other business factors. Competition was very keen. Ultimately, the decision was made to select BankPlus as our partner.

“BankPlus has truly become a good partner, and they have met our expectations. BankPlus is very customer service-oriented, and the Nissan employees that have chosen to open accounts with BankPlus have been extremely satisfied.”

Canton is not new territory for BankPlus. It operates a branch on Liberty Street in the seat of Madison County. Nor is a non-traditional locale new — BankPlus has offices located in retail locations in the metro Jackson area. But locating an office inside the confines of a manufacturing operation is a first for the bank that currently operates 47 offices in 28 Mississippi communities and holds total assets in excess of $1 billion.

“It is a bit different,” said Gene Delcomyn, the Ridgeland-based president of the metro area at BankPlus. “For instance, Nissan has a morning shift that comes in at 5:30. So, we’re open from 5:30 until 8:00 to serve those getting off from the night shift and those coming in for the morning.”

The size of Nissan is also a unique challenge for BankPlus. In addition to the office, the bank offers three ATMs — one located near the cafeteria while the other two are housed near the manufacturing floor for the workers’ convenience. Though these ATMs are located in the plant, Delcomyn said they are nearly a mile from the BankPlus-Nissan office.

“We have a golf cart that we use to service these ATMs,” he said.

Delcomyn pointed out that these challenges have not affected the bank’s enthusiasm for its partnership with Nissan. He said BankPlus’ expectations have been more than exceeded.

The numbers help explain BankPlus’ enthusiasm. BankPlus-Nissan is not large — it encompasses less than 1,000 square feet. It is staffed by eight full-time employees, who are regularly rotated out due to the branch’s unique, non-traditional hours of operation. Yet, the branch is full-service, and Nissan workers have found BankPlus attractive and convenient. Delcomyn estimated that approximately 85% of all Nissan workers have their accounts with BankPlus, and that nearly 100% use the bank’s service to a greater or lesser degree.

In addition to the special hours, BankPlus also offers Nissan workers direct deposit and a debit card, so workers do not have to “hike” into the office unless they need face-to-face assistance. BankPlus also offers a package of special services specifically designed for Nissan employees.

BankPlus’ workers have found the Nissan partnership to their liking, as well. Delcomyn said the BankPlus staff enjoys the small town-feel of Nissan — they see the same faces routinely and eat with them each day in the cafeteria.

And some BankPlus employees are riding a little classier today because of Nissan. BankPlus established an internal performance bonus program that promises a new Nissan vehicle to the winners. So far, BankPlus has presented an Altima and two Armadas to three of its employees. Medlin was quick to point out that not all of the Nissan vehicles driven by BankPlus personnel were giveaways.

“We are proud that BankPlus has supported Nissan by purchasing our products to use as company vehicles,” he said. “Many BankPlus employees have also bought Nissan vehicles because of our partnership.”

Nissan had barely announced it was coming to Mississippi when it started working on its first expansion plans. Future growth of Nissan-Canton is a distinct possibility. So, is BankPlus prepared to grow with the automotive giant?

“Oh, yes,” Delcomyn said. “If they need additional ATMs, we’ll do that. If they need a second on-site office, we’ll do that. We are committed to Nissan. We are extremely happy with our partnership with them. And we think they are happy with us, too.”

Medlin thinks so, too.

“Our employees can always count on a friendly face and good customer service and the Nissan BankPlus facility,” he said. “It is great to have a full-service branch in our plant where the Nissan team can take care of all their banking needs, including vehicle and mortgage loans.”

Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at northway@msbusiness.com.

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