BancorpSouth heads to the Music City

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Published: January 5,2004

TUPELO — BancorpSouth Bank has entered the crowded Nashville banking market.

In November, the $10.5-billion Tupelo-based bank opened a commercial loan production office and residential mortgage center in Brentwood, Tenn., a tony suburb south of Nashville, where country music superstars like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw call home. Pending federal regulatory approval, the bank plans to begin building a full-service branch this quarter, which should be completed by the end of 2004. Initially, the office will target small businesses and retail customers in Williamson and Davidson counties.

“We have been watching the Nashville market grow and are exploring opportunities to enter this attractive market,” said BancorpSouth chairman Aubrey B. Patterson.

BancorpSouth has already established successful banking operations in West Tennessee, including Memphis and Jackson, with more than $1 billion in deposits. The bank intends to build 10 branches in middle Tennessee by 2009.

“It seems logical to expand east into one of Tennessee`s fastest growing markets,” said BancorpSouth president and COO Jim Kelley.

Three major players in Nashville`s banking arena — Birmingham, Ala.-based AmSouth, Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America and Atlanta-based SunTrust — control more than half the market, which includes 46 banks and $20 billion in deposits. Memphis-based Union Planters Bank also has a slice of the remaining market share.

“Nashville is economically growing at a very healthy rate,” said BancorpSouth spokesperson Chuck McIntosh, who declined to say how long the bank had been eyeing the move.

However, analysts at Stephens Inc., a Little Rock, Ark.-based investment banking firm, mentioned in early May that BancorpSouth officials announced plans to enter the Nashville market. “The population is expected to almost double in middle Tennessee by the year 2025. There is certainly room for other financial institutions and we believe BancorpSouth`s banking practices will thrive in this market. Our attention to customer service, and the ability to respond quickly to customer needs, will allow us to gain market share in middle Tennessee.”

Two years ago, the bank expanded into another Southern capital city when it acquired Pinnacle Bancshares of Little Rock, Ark. The bank had expanded into the Memphis market several years earlier, where it now has 19 offices and 3.6% of the deposit market. BancorpSouth has gained a substantial foothold in the Jackson market. Last year, the company announced plans to boost its presence in Arkansas’ largest city, and in August, BancorpSouth completed a merger agreement with Ramsey, Krug, Farrell & Lensing, Inc. (RKF&L), an Arkansas-based insurance firm.

Ken Farmer, a five-year BancorpSouth executive with 23 years of banking and financial services experience, who most recently served as loan administrator for the southern region of Mississippi, will direct the bank`s middle Tennessee banking operations.

“We are excited about the opportunity to provide the Nashville area BancorpSouth`s unique brand of local market management backed by the resources of a large regional financial services company,” said Farmer.

The bank is leasing 4,000 square feet in Brentwood`s Maryland Farms and has a six-person staff. Nashville banker Kenny Lyons has been named senior vice president of BancorpSouth`s Nashville division, and Molly Silvers has been named loan and operations officer for the loan production office. Belinda Arender heads the separate mortgage lending operation for middle Tennessee, which is headquartered at the Brentwood lending center. No additional executives have been named, said McIntosh.

BancorpSouth, the holding company for BancorpSouth Bank (NYSE: BXS), operates nearly 250 branches in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. The largest bank based in Mississippi has approximately 50 consumer finance offices in Mississippi and Tennessee, offers traditional banking services, sells insurance and provides brokerage and asset management services throughout most of its territory. Real estate mortgages represent nearly 75% of its portfolio.

As of Dec. 31, 2002, the company and its subsidiaries reported total assets of approximately $10.19 billion and total deposits of approximately $8.55 billion. The bank reported revenues totaling $722.7 million, a 9% increase over 2001. Net income was $112 million, representing a 13.7% one-year increase. Its employee growth rate for the same period was 2.3%, bringing the year-end employee total to 3,828. Stock traded at $23.85 as of Dec. 18.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

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