By DENNIS SEID / Daily Journal

RIPLEY – The Peoples Bank of Ripley has had only six presidents since it was founded in 1925. And the last two presidents have come from the same family.

Mary Childs, who has been president and CEO since 2012, followed in the footsteps of her father, Bobby Martin, who held the titles for 42 years. Martin, 85, remains chairman of the board.

Then there’s Bob Glover – Childs’ son – who is a vice president, investment and security officer the The Peoples Bank.

It’s fair to say that when The Peoples Bank is mentioned, Bobby Martin and his family are inextricably linked.

“I’ve been here at the bank 57 years,” said Martin, a Tippah County native. “Our family has a pretty good share of stock in the bank for a long time, and it’s a family-controlled bank pretty much. We’re proud of that, but we’re here to help as many customers as we can.”

Since Childs and Glover grew up in the business, it was natural for them to work in the industry. Childs worked at BancorpSouth for a decade before joining her father at The Peoples Bank in 1990. Glover joined the bank after graduating from Mississippi State University, from where his mother and grandfather also graduated.

“For me, there was never any family pressure to be a banker or get into banking,” Glover said. “It’s just that I was fortunate to grow up in a banking family and see the positive impact bankers can make in a community like Ripley, like Tippah County. I’m proud to be a part of that.”

The Peoples Bank is exactly that – it exists to serve the people of the community in which it was founded. It has added two more locations over the years in Blue Mountain and Walnut, the bank’s core business is Tippah County. And it has no plans to expand beyond those borders.

“We feel like we know what we’re doing and we want to stay with what we know,” Childs said. “Our philosophy has always been excellent customer service and excellent customer experience. That’s been instilled in the management team and it’s trickled down to the rest of the employees. We go the extra mile for our customers. And we give personal service – we get to know our customers and try to treat then like family. We care about not only their finances but also their personal lives.”

 

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

The Peoples Bank was founded after the failure of the Bank of Ripley. Fred Smith, a local attorney, was granted a charter from the state to establish the new bank on April 23, 1925. With $15,000 in capital, he was the bank’s first president, and was joined by Erst Long, Orbrey Street, J.C. Dixon and J.K. McBride.

“That $15,000 is now worth about $43 million today,” Martin said.

Smith in 1950 sold a majority of his stock in the bank to Guntown native L.E. Watson, who then became president. Eight years later, McBride and Oscar Shannon bought all of Watson’s bank shares, and McBride was named president while Shannon was named vice president.

Shannon was named president after McBride died in 1961. Martin, who joined the bank as a cashier that same year, was elected president and CEO when Shannon died unexpectedly in 1970.

Martin proudly gave way to his daughter in 2012, as Mary became the first woman to lead the bank.

 

LEADING THE WAY

Taking leadership positions is nothing new for Martin or his family.

Martin is a former chairman of the Mississippi Bankers Association, and Childs was recently elected chairman of the MBA for 2018-2019. She became the first woman elected to lead the MBA in its 129-year history.

The MBA is a statewide trade association whose membership includes commercial banks and savings institutions operating in Mississippi. MBA members hold more than 95 percent of bank deposits in the state.

At the same time, Glover was elected to serve as president of Mississippi Young Bankers, a section of the Mississippi Bankers Association.

As MYB president, he will chair the Executive Council and serve on the board of the MBA Education Foundation. He’s also a charter nember of the American Bankers Association’s Emerging Leaders Advisory Board.

“It’s really pretty unique with the way it’s happened with us,” Childs said.

“It’s not only fun for us, but it’s a great honor for the bank itself,” Glover said. “For mom and I to serve concurrent terms is an honor.”

Notably, the first woman to lead the Mississippi Young Bankers was a Peoples Bank employee.

As for the bank and the industry itself in the future, it appears to be as bright as ever.

“We always believe there’s a future for community banks,” Childs said. “We know we have to adapt to change as it comes. We don’t necessarily have to be the first to jump when new things come out, but we try to offer the products and services they want with us.”

Decisions will always be made locally and quickly, without having to go through the red tape and complicated processes of larger banks, Martin said.

“We’re in the position now where we can handle just about anything our customer base needs, and we couldn’t do that in a place like Tupelo with its bigger demands and bigger loans,” Martin said. “We feel like we can grow our bank to fit the needs of this community.”

Said Glover, “We see it as a symbiotic relationship: a healthy community breeds a healthy bank and vice versa. That has served this institution particularly well the last 93 years.”

And in the future, there may be other members of the family continuing the legacy at The Peoples Bank of Ripley – Glover has three young children.