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VOL. 126 | NO. 20 | Monday, January 31, 2011

Bank of Bartlett Ends 2010 with $1M Profit

By Andy Meek

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If the executive team that runs Bank of Bartlett had to choose a song to serve as the bank’s theme these days, one candidate might be “Happy Days are Here Again.”

The small, community bank notched a pre-tax profit for 2010 of about $1.7 million and a little more than $1 million after tax. Bank president Harold Byrd said core deposits also are growing, the bank’s cost of funds remains low and the bank’s operating expenses have been trimmed to a healthy level.

Also, the bank doesn’t foresee adding much, if anything, in the near future to its loan loss reserves, the cushions banks build to protect themselves against loans that turn sour.

“I don’t think we’re going to see much of an issue there,” said the bank’s chief financial officer Charles Tucker. “There’s always something you don’t know about that can come back to bite you, but I really think we’re in a good position. I don’t think we’re going to have to make any huge additions to the loan loss reserves.”

Bank of Bartlett’s performance is somewhat telling about the industry, since Bank of Bartlett is the embodiment of the community banks that far outnumber large institutions with gold-plated brands like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.

Community banks like Bank of Bartlett often live or die simply by the quality of the loans they make and the amount of deposits they collect.

Bank of Bartlett’s executives like Byrd make a habit of greeting customers, especially regulars, and make themselves a familiar presence in the lobby and teller areas.

The bank’s profit for 2010 marks a big improvement over 2009, when Bank of Bartlett closed that year $2 million in the red.

At that point, the bank was still trying to heal the scars from the recession. Every loan on the books was reviewed “about 100 times,” according to Tucker’s predecessor.

The operating plan was adjusted. And new business bankers were hired to deepen customer relationships and build new ones.

The bank agreed with its regulators to execute a turnaround plan, part of which includes raising new capital. The bank is still in the process of doing that.

Since then, recovery has included the bank focusing more on small business and retail banking. Byrd said the bank also is in the process of interviewing new business bankers to hire.

“We feel like this year we see the economy improving,” Byrd said. “We sold a lot of lots (last) year, we’ve had new loans coming in, and last year we added three new business bankers.

“I think a lot of our customers as well as small-business people have been on the sidelines for a long time now. And now you’re seeing movement with people starting to do things again, whether it be in terms of consumer purchases or small-business loans.”

Bank of Bartlett is the 11th-largest bank in the Memphis market as ranked by customer deposit share, according to the latest numbers from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.

Among the things 2011 has in store for the bank, which now has eight locations in the Memphis area, Byrd said he’s anticipating a pickup in loan activity.

He and other bankers see demand slowly recovering as well as the availability of quality loan opportunities increasing.

“We’re also out actively calling on people with our cadre of bankers to generate new loans, and we have been successful at doing that,” Byrd said.

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