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VOL. 127 | NO. 39 | Monday, February 27, 2012

Privatization Thoughts Highlight Changes

By Andy Meek

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Here’s a roundup of what some of the city’s banks and bankers, investment professionals, mortgage brokers, asset management firms and other financial services shops have been up to in recent weeks.

• Magna Bank is taking steps toward going private. The Memphis-based bank has scheduled a special meeting of its stockholders about the matter for March 26.

On the agenda is approval to reclassify certain shares of the bank’s common stock and to convert from a federal savings bank to a state banking corporation. Among the many benefits the bank believes it will derive from the reorganization, Magna’s chairman, president and CEO Kirk Bailey said the cost savings will easily top six figures.

After the restructuring, Magna also believes it can eliminate a competitive advantage some area banks have over it because the move will reduce the amount of strategic information and other data that Magna makes available, which competitors can analyze.

• The wealth management firm of Kelman-Lazarov has hired Mark Schmitt as a full-time employee. He’s focusing on information technology as part of the firm’s ongoing plan to stay up to date so it can best meet clients’ financial needs. He’s also helping Kelman-Lazarov in its effort to go paperless and is helping assist with new programming and technology.

Kelman-Lazarov also has hired Stephen Parr to assist with research and portfolio analysis, financial reporting and cost basis issues.

• Tri-State Bank of Memphis turned 65 years old a few months ago. Over six decades, the bank has tried to play a transformational role in the civic life of blacks in Memphis, providing a sorely needed outlet for mortgages and other loans.

One example of its community focus: in the 1980s, Tri-State Bank loaned $60,000 to help save the old Lorraine Motel from foreclosure. Enough money ultimately came in from other sources that a foundation was able to buy the property and turn it into the National Civil Rights Museum.

• Lockton has signed a five-year lease for about 5,500 square feet of space in the Renaissance Center.

Pat Gamble, senior vice president at CB Richard Ellis Memphis, represented Lockton in the deal. Patrick Riley, CBRE vice president, represented the landlord, Orlando, Fla.-based Parkway Properties Inc.

Lockton, which bills itself as the world’s largest privately held insurance broker, opened its Memphis operation in June. The office has added five insurance professionals who provide property-casualty insurance and employee benefits consulting to business clients. Lockton also is actively recruiting risk-management and employee-benefit professionals to expand its sales and service team.

• Former First Tennessee Bank executive Mike Edwards has joined Paragon National Bank as president and chief operating officer. In his new role, Edwards will be responsible for the continued development of Paragon’s loan and deposit lines of business, as well as enhancing existing customer relationships and establishing new connections.

• Anne Richards of Synovus Mortgage/Trust One Bank has been elected president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of Memphis for 2012. Teresa Beach, Memphis market mortgage sales manager for Commercial Bank & Trust, is president-elect.

• Finally, recent reports, commentaries and updates to clients from a few Memphis investment firms give a picture of what’s going on with the economy at present.

Sector Capital Management, for example, in a year-end review released this month said its professionals are more optimistic about the stock market in 2012.

“It is hard to predict another macro event like the European debt crisis,” they wrote. “However, we can continue to own the highest quality companies in a diversified and prudent allocation. Valuations are attractive and fundamentals will again drive stock prices as fear subsides.”

The professionals at Summit Asset Management have been cautious about the economy.

“When we last reported, we had transitioned many client portfolios to more conservative positions (where applicable),” reads a Jan. 15 investor letter from Summit. “We were overweighting cash and increasing equity positions in larger cap, predominantly domestic holdings … Our conservative stances and defensive posture caused us to not fully participate in the fourth quarter rally.”

2011 was a down year for Southeastern Asset Management and its Longleaf family of mutual funds.

“After delivering strong returns in 2009 and 2010, we are disappointed to report weak results for 2011,” Southeastern reported in a year-end letter to shareholders Jan. 31. “We prefer every year be outstanding, but our multi-year orientation focuses us on longer investment time horizons. Over Southeastern’s 36-year history, most five-year holding periods have been rewarding. Currently, however, our five year returns are burdened by the unprecedented 2008 price declines. Unfortunately, 2011 did nothing to offset our most challenged year.”

However, they see possibility on the horizon.

“When our analysts communicate in writing, in the absence of being able to raise our voices and pound the table to convey our convictions, we WRITE IN ALL CAPS,” they wrote. “As we enter 2012, we want to express to you our belief that WE OWN SUPERIOR BUILDING BLOCKS THAT SHOULD GENERATE OUTSTANDING FUTURE INVESTMENT RETURNS.”

PROPERTY SALES 74 74 17,458
MORTGAGES 93 93 20,128
BUILDING PERMITS 126 126 36,072
BANKRUPTCIES 63 63 11,227