Land Bank South’s new chief touts financial co-op strength

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Published: February 18,2008

Joe H. Hayman, Land Bank South’s new CEO, comes to the position with the goal of taking the financial cooperative to the next level. The $550-million financial institution is part of the nationwide Farm Credit System providing financing for farms, recreational properties and homes outside urban areas.

“There’s so much potential. We’re financially strong from the Delta to the Coast in Mississippi,” he says. “We finance everything outside city limits, including investment property such as timber tracts. We’re not limited to just Mississippi but can offer financing for property all over the country.”

Reconnecting with roots

The 36-year-old CEO brings 14 years of financial services experience to the position, most recently serving as the chief operating officer for Texas AgFinance of Corpus Christi, Texas. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in agricultural economics. He was born in Hattiesburg and lived there until age 11.

“I’m excited to be back in Mississippi and re-connect with some of my roots,” he said. “My wife, Kat, and our five children (ages six months to 11 years) are in the process of moving at this time. Compared to that, banking is the simple part.”

Hayman explains that the financial cooperative is owned by the people who do business with them and returns profits to those customers at the end of the year. In addition to his college degree, he has a general securities principal license which he plans to utilize in growing the cooperative’s return for stockholders.

“It’s a unique monster in the financial world, but not in the agriculture world where there have always been cooperatives. It is different from commercial banks. We’re a niche market and everything we do is a little different,” he said. “Most of our employees grew up outside urban areas and have a passion for rural land financing.”

Competition, changing markets

He sees challenges facing the Land Bank such as increased competition and changing markets. “In the past, customers have lived in rural areas but they are now shifting to urban areas and we’re often finding recreational rural land for them,” he said. “Competition is coming from cash as people are pulling out of the stock market and from banks and individuals. An investor may think ‘I can’t take my son fishing on a Merrill Lynch statement’.”

The balance sheet of Land Bank South is strong, but even so Hayman plans to go after new markets although he won’t say now where new business will be generated.

“We will focus on deepening existing relationships and generating new business. That pipeline is our life line,” he said. “My mission will center on that.”

For investors, Hayman says the Land Bank system is one of the places where people really feel safe. Much of the system’s strength is attributable to the selling of farm credit bonds on Wall Street where they can be purchased by anyone and held in individual accounts.

“They go straight to the bond market. Because of the strength in the land bank system, our bond rating is second only to the U.S. Treasury,” he said. “We’ve never defaulted on bonds, and that allows us to have lower interest rates. Our cost of funding is the lowest in the market place.”

Land demand

He says the system can maintain that strength even in this uncertain economy because Land Bank South has a diversified portfolio. “As the old saying goes, they’re never going to make more land, so the demand will increase,” he said. “The Baby Boomer generation has a strong desire to return to rural roots, and there will always be a demand for land.”

Hayman believes success is built around the idea of being number one in employees’ minds and with stockholders and being the best in the marketplace. Currently, the financial cooperative has 40 employees in Mississippi serving customers at locations in Brookhaven, Flowood, Greenville, Greenwood, Hattiesburg, Lucedale, Magee, Newton and Poplarville.

“My leadership style is not one of micro managing, but is one of finding the right people and putting the best people on our biggest opportunities,” Hayman said. “The future of Land Bank South is extremely bright, and I look forward to working with its expert team to maximize the value to our stockholders.”

Jessie L. Purvis has served as the CEO of Land Bank South since July 2005, and will continue to work assisting the transition, retiring later this year.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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