On February 8, The Citizens Bank of Philadelphia will celebrate 100 years of serving communities in East Mississippi. It began in 1908 when 48 individuals set out to make banking a reality in Neshoba County. These stockholders raised capital in the amount of $50,000 and a $5,000 surplus before opening the doors.
Steady growth and holding steadfast have brought the bank through these 100 years. President Greg McKee says the customers are why The Citizens Bank is still around. That’s why the open houses at all branches February 8 will recognize customers all day with give-aways, drawings, cake and punch.
Stockholders, staff, customers
“The bank’s longevity is due to the triangle of stockholders, employees and customers,” McKee said. “As long as that stays in tact, we will continue to grow.”
Speaking for the Mississippi Bankers Association (MBA), president Mac Deaver said The Citizens Bank of Philadelphia has always been involved in the banking industry, supporting the participation of its officers and employees in the communities served by the bank and in industry activities.
“This is exemplified by the bank’s history of involvement in the Mississippi Bankers Association where former CEO Steve Webb served as MBA chairman in 2002,” he said. “This tradition has continued under the leadership of Greg McKee. The result is that the bank is strong and respected, not only in their communities but throughout the state and industry.”
McKee points out that the bank has experienced steady, profitable growth and now has 21 branches in nine counties. The service area is bound by Starkville on the north, Meridian on the south, Scooba on the east and Kosciusko on the west. Meridian is the largest town it serves, and will have two more branches opening there soon. The banks first branches outside Philadelphia were in Neshoba County in the 1970s, followed by branches in concentric counties. There are currently 220 full-time and 40 part-time employees.
“We keep an eye on the ball, trying to serve the entire community, whoever walks in the door,” he said. “That’s been our niche.”
He adds that Citizens is not a wholesale bank, and that its officers can move quickly on decisions for any need in any community served. Much of the area’s economy is service oriented, a migration over the 100 years from agriculture and cut-and-sew manufacturing to the service sector.
“We must change with the times regarding technology and strategy,” McKee said. “We’ve kept up but pride ourselves with personal service and being a community bank. Responsiveness is our key. A branch manager has a lot of authority and can respond without calling the home office for an answer.”
He says the bank has a good IT department that leads in maintaining technology updates. “We were probably one of the smallest banks to go to in-house processing in 1972,” he said. “For our size, it was phenomenal at the time. The board allows us to be progressive.”
In 1995, the bank was one of the first financial institutions in the state to offer Internet banking services. Customers were offered consumer access along with a cash management product for business customers.
Going green in Starkville
Citizens Bank has illustrated its adaptability by constructing its first “green” building in Starkville. McKee says it may be the first eco-friendly bank in the state.
“It cost a little more, but we’ll get back four fold that in savings. The cost is justified over the long term,” he said. “Starkville is an academic community, and we thought this type of facility would be recognized in a positive way.”
The facility, located on Mississippi 12 West, opened last October and is a state-of-the-art energy conserving building. It is super insulated, taking advantage of daylight during the winter months and minimizing heat gain during the summer months. It also has a ventilated and double-insulated roof plane, HVAC ductwork and recessed lighting located below the plane of the attic insulation.
McKee praises the bank’s board, consisting of people from diverse backgrounds. “We have some board members from the same families that were on the board when the bank began,” he said. “They have an appreciation that our customers want us to serve them and know that’s the key.”
In 1992, the Citizens Holding Company was formed, and in 1999 The Citizens Bank rang the bell at the American Stock Exchange to begin the trading of holding company stock under the symbol “CIZ.”
Citizens’ success has come in a town with plenty of banking competition. McKee says Philadelphia’s main street looks like bank street. Looking ahead, he sees continued growth, possibly expanding into higher density population areas
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at email@example.com..