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New life, new money for resurgent Cadence

Cadence National Bank has begun a new life as a privately owned institution flush with an additional $100 million in capital and freedom from a $44-million Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, debt.

“We’re going to do some things. It’s fun having money,” said Mark Abernathy, who took over as CEO for Lewis Mallory Jr. after Cadence’s acquisition by Houston banking investment group Community Bancorp, LLC, March 4.

The cash from Community Bancorp frees the $1.3-billion regional banking company from a consent order the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency put the bank under in the spring of 2010.

Further, it lets the bank enhance the technology it employs for customer service and allows it to extend the hours for toll free customer service to 8 p.m. Central Time, Abernathy said at a March 7 press conference at the Cadence headquarters in Starkville.

“We have committed to spend $750,000 on  technology that builds on an already strong platform,” he said, and noted the platform as it is uses only about 30 percent of its capacity.

“Part of the technology investment is going into a new wire transfer system,” he said, though he added: “We’re not ready to talk to you about it today.”

Further, a new Web-based teller automation system in the works will speed up customer transactions, he said.

Cadence had has been out of the mortgage lending business for more than a year. It plans to get back into with a focus on affordable housing opportunities, the bank says.

Cadence market presidents will spend the next 100 days our “on an outreach into our communities” across a five-state region that includes — in addition to Mississippi — Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida, Abernathy said.

They will be looking for partnerships to create affordable housing programs and improve current affordable housing opportunities, he added. “They will bring back recommendations and we will make commitments to affordable housing.”

He said the newly private Cadence will increase its involvement in economic development organizations, especially in the Golden Triangle communities of Starkville and Columbus.

“We want to be significant in these organizations,” he said. “If economic development works within our footprint, it creates profit and economic opportunity.”

Paul Murphy, chairman of Community Bancorp and chairman-designate of Cadence, has said he intends to make Cadence’s Starkville headquarters the hub of a network of community banks his group plans to buy.

Some of the groundwork for that has been laid by the recent hiring of 17 executives, Cadence says.

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