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Liberty Bank is the only black-owned bank operating in Mississippi

Ann Duplessis

By BECKY GILLETTE

While Mississippi’s population is 37 percent black, there is only one black-owned bank operating in the state, Liberty Bank and Trust Company.

“We have a saying, ‘We are more than just a bank’,” said Ann D. Duplessis, senior vice president, retail banking, Liberty Bank and Trust Company. “We truly believe in providing access to capital to strengthen our communities and we practice giving back to the communities we serve.”

Duplessis said the secret to their success has been plain and simple… their employees.

“Not only is Liberty Bank a strong commercial bank, but we are extremely proud of our community involvement,” Duplessis said. “Our employees give hours of their time serving on various social, civic, community, and professional boards.”

  Liberty Bank opened in 1972 with $2 million dollars in assets and a goal of providing quality products and services to the city of New Orleans’ underserved, disadvantaged minority population. Nearly four decades later, Liberty Bank has an enviable record of growth, boasting tremendous profitability and asset accumulation, Duplessis said.

The bank has grown to about $600 million in assets. Liberty has 160 full and part-time employees with 16 branches and offices in 8 states. Headquartered in New Orleans, it is the second largest minority-owned bank in the U.S.

Duplessis said they believe that it is important to have black and minority owned banks because they play a major role in providing access to capital for segments of the community that have been traditionally been left out of the ability to get affordable financial services.

“Black-owned banks understand the issues faced in our communities,” Duplessis said. “We have learned how to determine what is truly ‘risk’ as it relates to ones’ credit score and or a person’s ability to pay us back. Because of this expertise, we have been able to be a driving force with providing capital to purchase a home or start or grow a business. Additionally, having black-owned banks in the community provides for a source of pride to communities of color.”

Duplessis said in addition, black-owned banks can plan a role in developing opportunities for economic development to challenged communities.

Bailey Chandler, regional vice president, commercial lending, Liberty Bank and Trust, Jackson, worked for several different banks before he recently went to work for Liberty Bank. He appreciates the opportunity to grow the bank’s market share.

“The people are wonderful,” Chandler said. “It is just a very professionally run bank. It is nice to work for an organization like this. I’ve been with several different banks in Jackson. I was with AmSouth Bank before it merged with Regions, and with Wachovia before it merged with Wells Fargo. And I was with BancorpSouth for several years. I did commercial lending in my previous positions.”

Chandler said all of the institutions he has been part of have been nondiscriminatory and based loan decisions strictly on credit requirements. People who meet credit requirements get a loan.

“I don’t see any evidence of red lining in any zip codes,” Chandler said. “The bank examiners who come into any institution are making sure we are conforming to the serving all the communities regardless of race. But part of the mission of Liberty is to serve some areas other banks don’t serve. We are a minority-owned bank, so we take that responsibility very seriously.”

With bank mergers being such a big trend, Chandler said sometimes that can result in customers just becoming a number and losing a personal relationship with their bankers.

“If you get a relationship with a business or customer, you need to maintain that,” Chandler said. “I’ve been successful in doing business with the same people because they know I am going to take care of them. I look at this not necessarily as a transaction, but a relationship. If I can help them grow, then I can grow with them. In my opinion, if we can help others be successful, we can be successful.”

Chandler said they have a separate mortgage division that is doing very well. His area of focus is on improving commercial lending at Liberty Bank.

“Some people didn’t realize Liberty was in the market,” Chandler said. “I have to change that perception. We’re making strides. I’m looking for loans, but also educating some business community leaders what we can do and how we can go about it to grow their business.”

Chandler said while they are a for-profit business, they try very hard to put the needs of customers first.

“We treat everyone equally,” Chandler said. “We have credit criteria everyone has to quality for in order for us to make a loan. We maintain the integrity of our institution and follow the policies that we have in place.”

For more information, see https://www.libertybank.net/.

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About Becky Gillette