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|OIB: Building banks around the right people|
Ouachita Independent Bank is expected to open its fourth branch in northwest Louisiana this week.
OIB first moved into the Shreveport market in 2003, opening a facility in the city's downtown area.
Clyde White, chairman and chief executive officer at OIB, said OIB made sure to retain local employees, and looked to hire more local people when the bank made its move to the Shreveport area some five years ago.
"We didn't want to go in there and try to take people from the Monroe market and plug them in and assume we'd be successful," White said. "It's no different than anywhere else; you've got to have local people with a local following."
Since 2005, OIB has built two more branches in Shreveport and two more branches in Bossier City.
The second Shreveport branch was opened this summer. This week, the second Bossier City branch is expected to open.
Besides entering into the Shreveport market, OIB has established a presence in Bastrop, buying its first facilities there from First Guaranty Bank in 2001.
Since that time, White said OIB has been successful in servicing the agri-business community. While there is some concern about the viability of International Paper in Bastrop, White said OIB's loan business has remained strong in Morehouse Parish.
Most of the loan business in Morehouse Parish results from dealings with local farmers, he said.
"We feel pretty good about that," White said. "I don't think we're totally dependent on the paper mill to survive in that community."
OIB kept the staff from First Guaranty Bank, and since that time the bank has added several more employees at its Bastrop operations.
"That's been a good little franchise for us up there," White said. "We're the only bank up there that has multiple branches in Bastrop. We think we made a pretty good purchase there."
White is pleased with how well small community banks have performed in Louisiana. He said community banks have worked hard to recapture some of the market that was lost when other community banks sold out to larger banks years ago.
"Twenty years ago, there were five community banks in Monroe and West Monroe, which all sold out to out-of-town and out-of-state bank holding companies," White explained. "So, when we started this bank in 1997, we were the first community bank to come back into this market. Others followed us in here, and I think we're continuing to eat into the market share of the Chases, Regions and those guys."
"We're continuing to show growth in all of our branches, and each of them will continue to grow in loans and deposits," White added.
White said OIB will continue to look for other opportunities in northwest Louisiana since the economy in that region of the state is in good shape.
White said OIB also may look at entering new markets in south Louisiana. He said Lafayette, Baton Rouge and the Florida parishes are good markets.
"But some of those are over-banked, too," White said. "So, we're not going to just jump in there and do it just to say we've done it. It's got to work for us."
He said it all depends on finding the right people in those markets to run OIB's operations.
"If you can find the right people … the people who are from down there and have a following, you can build a bank around them," White said.
East Texas is another market OIB officials have their eyes on. White said many residents in eastern Texas prefer banking in the Shreveport market over the Dallas market.
"I think that could happen within five years," White said.
Despite numerous reports in the national media about bank failures and the lack of loans, White said that problem has not occurred here or anywhere else in the state of Louisiana.
Most of the banks in Louisiana are community banks whose customers are Louisiana businesses and citizens. These bank's stockholders also live in the state, he said.
White is not aware of any community bank in Louisiana that is not willing to make a loan to good customers.
"Community banking in Louisiana is safe and sound, and people don't need to worry about the viability of our bank, particularly on the loan side," White said. "If you read the national media, they'll tell you that banks have closed down their lending. That may be the case for big Wall Street, New York City banks, but that's certainly not the case for our bank and community banks all over the state. We're looking for good loans. We're not going to turn people down if they have good loan requests and good credit.
"I feel like most community banks are solid, and people needn't be worried about being able to do their business here. They needn't worry about the safety of their deposits nor being able to get loans here. That's going to continue to happen."
As of Wednesday, OIB had $390 million, operating 11 bank branches in four parishes.