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Steve Gresham, president of the Bank of Holly Springs, prepares to cut the cake at an event in June celebrating the bank’s 150th anniversary. Courtesy of Bank of Holly Springs

Bank of Holly Springs the oldest bank in Mississippi and ‘as modern as the newest’

By BECKY GILLETTE

The Bank of Holly Springs, the oldest continuously operating bank in the state, got its start in 1869 shortly after the end of the Civil War.

“Holly Springs was more fortunate than some towns in that the town was not destroyed during the war,” said Steven Gresham, CEO of the Bank of Holly Springs. “Some contribute that fact to General U.S. Grant who reportedly ordered the town spared because of how his wife was treated while staying in Holly Springs when the Union Army occupied the town.”

The bank was chartered by the Mississippi Legislature in 1866. After sufficient capital was raised, it opened Feb. 5, 1869, on the square in Holly Springs. And though Holly Springs was better off than many towns burned to the ground in the war, it was still a difficult period for the economy.

“I can’t imagine things not being economically tough following the war,” Gresham said. “I also assume that the time between the charter and the bank opening was because of the time that it took to raise the required capital.”

As the town grew, so did the Bank of Holly Springs. Many residents of Holly Springs come from families who have been in Holly Springs for generation. The bank even has one board member who is a descendent of one of their original founders.

The bank built a new location in 2006, but continues to maintain an office at the original location. It operates five full-service locations, two in Holly Springs, and branch locations in Potts Camp, Abbeville and Slayden.

As evidenced by employee longevity, the Bank of Holly Springs is a great place to work.

“We have many employees with more than 30 years of service and very little turnover which helps build customer relationships and boost the stability of the bank,” Gresham said. “Our employees are local residents who are active in a wide variety of activities supporting our communities and genuinely care about seeing our communities improve and our citizens succeed.”

He attributes their success and longevity of the bank to its employees’ commitment to customer service. While some customers just want to get their transactions taken care of and move on, they have many customers who have established relationships with their employees.

“From the customer cashing a check and going to the same teller to loan customers dealing with our loan officers, we like for our customers to be comfortable with our employees and know that they are dealing with people who sincerely care about them,” Gresham said.

Seeing their customers succeed is always rewarding.  Whether it’s buying their first home, getting their first loan or building a successful business, Gresham said it brings a sense of pride knowing that the bank played a part in what they were able to do.

“It is also rewarding to know that the Board of Directors of the bank uses the success of the bank to give back to the community,” Gresham said. “From supporting local schools and churches, making a large donation to kickstart a tornado relief fund following a devastating tornado a few years ago or working with local officials to try to help bring new businesses and jobs, our board has always shown a strong commitment to our communities.”

Bank mergers have been a big trend in recent years. The Bank of Holly Springs was contacted years back to see if it had any interest in merging.

“Our board has always preferred to remain independent, feeling that we can better support our local communities and citizens as we are now rather than as part of a larger bank,” Gresham said. “We feel like we can compete with any bank with the services that we offer. These services include internet banking, telephone banking, mobile banking, remote deposit, direct deposit and ach origination. Customers can generally take care of all of their banking business without ever having to come to the bank. However, we still welcome our customers to come in and we enjoy seeing them when they do.”

Gresham considers government regulation the biggest threat to community banking today. He estimated that more than 50 percent of the time spent by loan personnel is related to regulatory compliance and says most of it does not benefit the customer.

“Loans that a few years ago could be closed within a few days of the application now may take up to 30 days to close and cost the borrower more in closing costs,” he said. “Also, because of all of the additional requirements, time and costs, some loans that qualified a few years ago no longer qualify. We have tried to instill in our employees that the customer is our most important asset, but there are times when it seems like the government have to be taken care of first. Then we can take care of the customer.”

Gresham said he thinks some bank boards get tired of fighting all of the regulation and costs, and sell or merge to get away from it.

“I especially hate to see this in small towns that are dependent on their local community bank,” Gresham said.

Gresham said their commitment to excellence has enabled them to continue to grow and serve their communities for more than 150 years.

“We thank our customers for helping to make all of this possible,” Gresham said. “We invite you to apply for an account today or visit any of our locations. Then you will understand the reasons for our longevity and why we are able to say that we’re the oldest bank in Mississippi and as modern as the newest.”

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About Becky Gillette