By DENNIS SEID / Daily Journal

TUPELO • Nearly seven years ago, Dan Rollins was tapped to lead BancorpSouth. The Texan was chosen to fill the shoes of longtime chief executive Aubrey Patterson, who spent four decades with the company.

Rollins took over a bank that had stalled a bit in its growth plans, but the last two years have seen the Tupelo-based bank rev up its portfolio.

After waiting for nearly four years, BancorpSouth completed two long-awaited mergers in January 2018, and since then, three more banks have been acquired. Another two should be completed by the end of the year.

And the bank has spent nearly $5 million on its headquarters building downtown the past few years. That work includes an expanded drive-through, a new HVAC system, renovated and additional offices on nearly every floor, enhanced building security, a sprinkler system to meet code and the replacement of three elevators.

“We’re continuing to invest in Tupelo by renovating our headquarters building and making several expansions to our Jackson Street campus,” Rollins said.

The Jackson Street facility is the technology and banking support center for BancorpSouth’s eight-state, 300-branch footprint. More than 700 people work on that campus, with another 181 downtown. Combined with the number working at its branches in the city, BancorpSouth employs nearly 1,000 in Tupelo and Lee County alone.

“We’ve grown over the past five years in Tupelo, with teammates relocating from Birmingham, Memphis, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and other markets,” Rollins said.

BancorpSouth, which was founded in Verona in 1876, moved to Tupelo a decade later. Renamed the Bank of Lee County and then the Bank of Tupelo, it became the Bank of Mississippi in 1966 before taking on its current moniker in 1997.

Today, it is nearing closer to $20 billion in assets.

“We’re sitting on give or take $15 billion in loans, and we’re also serving nearly $8 billion in mortgages we’ve originated and sold,” Rollins said. “So in total, we’re servicing more than $20 billion in loans at the Jackson Street campus.”

Debit cards, credit cards, checking and other electronic transactions that flow through the system are handled there as well.

That kind of growth has led BancorpSouth to an expansion of the facility. Those details are under wraps for now, which Rollins said would be revealed soon.

“As we continue to grow and add locations and find partners across the footprint, there’s a need to add capacity out there,” he said.

The mergers, along with organic growth, have helped drive BancorpSouth’s overall growth in the past 18 months.

When Rollins got the job in 2012, he said, “We’re not going to do anything that takes us off the path. We just want to get better at what we do. It comes down to what we all want – we want to get better every day.”

Now he looks back and says the bank was doing some things well, while other areas needed some tweaking.

Among the big changes was the reorganization of the senior leadership staff to make the bank more efficient. An early retirement program was made available to more than 220 employees. Bank leadership also unanimously voted to dissolve the bank holding company, BancorpSouth Inc., merging it into one entity, BancorpSouth Bank, in another move to gain efficiency.

Processes were standardized and centralized across the system, thus reducing potential risk while boosting the bank’s capabilities.

“Our risk management infrastructure today is capable of running a bank much larger than we are,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of capacity in our corporate structure and corporate governance to continue to grow our company.”

To get there, BancorpSouth needs the people to fill positions, which is one of the reasons for the growth at its downtown headquarters. Another 80 seats – a mixture of corporate support and “customer-facing teammates” have been added.

“We have a process in place that’s fully scalable, and we can plug in as we grow,” he said. “The ongoing investments in technology, facilities and people underscore our ongoing commitment to the city of Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi “

And Rollins said BancorpSouth’s growth the past couple of years falls back on the shoulders of those around him.

“We’ve got a really good, hard-working, dedicated team. You can’t replicate what we have in Tupelo. This is a unique opportunity for a company like ours.”