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VOL. 9 | NO. 50 | Saturday, December 10, 2016

Crittenden County Deposit Leader Fidelity National Bank Turns 50

By Michael Waddell

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Fidelity National Bank in West Memphis is enjoying its 50th year in business, and through the decades the bank has become a fixture of the local community.

Fidelity National Bank owner/chairman William Carlson, center, with grandson and senior vice president Kirby Carlson, left, and president/CEO Charles Horton, right.

(Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)

To commemorate the milestone, Fidelity is holding a series of special events this month, including a 1960s-themed Friday for employees, an open house and dinner for customers, and an anniversary party in mid-December.

“The bank has always been a community bank and remains so to this day,” said Fidelity president and CEO Charles Horton.

In fact, one of the original founding directors of Fidelity National, William Carlson, remains with the bank today as an owner, following the Carlson family’s purchase of Fidelity in 1988.

“Perhaps the most interesting thing is that we were chartered in 1966 as Fidelity National Bank, and we still are,” said Fidelity senior vice president of marketing Murphy Smith, citing how many banks have changed names over time as they acquire, or are acquired by, other financial institutions.

Today, Fidelity touts the highest number of deposits in Crittenden County as well as strong commercial lending business from local builders.

About five years ago, the bank entered the agricultural loan arena, where it has gotten more heavily involved in the past two to three years. Agriculture loans can include equipment, real estate or production, and the bank now has a dedicated agri-lending staff to handle the increased business.

“It’s been very good to us,” said Horton, who has worked for the Fidelity for the past 20 years and took over as president and CEO in 2010. “We live in an agricultural community, and the Carlson family comes from an agricultural background.”

Fidelity has enjoyed steady growth over the years and today has approximately $390 million in assets, compared to $38 million in 1988 when the Carlsons bought the bank.

“That’s pretty good for a small county in the Delta region,” said Horton.

Fidelity, whose holding company is Carlson Bancshares Inc., currently has five branches. In addition to its main office/branch at 330 W. Broadway St., Fidelity has a second branch in West Memphis, two locations in Marion and one in Hughes. Fidelity employs 65 people.

“We do more with less people than most banks do,” said Horton. “Our goal is to continue to service our community and the customers we have in Crittenden County.”

Mobile and internet banking needs are escalating for all banks, and Fidelity has launched an improved online banking system as well as a new app. But while Fidelity has ramped up its mobile and online presence in recent years, Horton still prefers more personal interaction with customers.

We still like to see people face to face. That way we get to know our customers, and they get to know us.”

–Charles Horton,
President/CEO, Fidelity National Bank

“As a community bank, we still like to see people face to face,” he said. “That way we get to know our customers, and they get to know us.”

Another area that has grown tremendously over the years is bank fraud, so Fidelity has had to increase its staff to combat the trend.

“We fight scams at the bank every day,” said Smith. “They’re certainly more sophisticated today, as almost all are card-based, with debit card fraud being the big one right now.”

Staying involved with the local community has always been a top priority for Fidelity’s leaders, and today that passion extends to organizing travel groups for senior citizens and teaching classes on financial literacy in local schools.

“To be a real community bank, we feel you have to be active in the community,” Horton said. “Our officers and directors serve on the boards of many civic organizations and chambers of commerce.”

One of Fidelity’s largest branches is located next door in Marion.

“They’re a great corporate citizen and a real asset to Marion, West Memphis and all of eastern Arkansas,” said Marion Chamber of Commerce President Mike Demster. “They’ve been very active in community affairs, civic events, and served in leadership positions for a number of civic organizations. So I can’t say enough good things about them.”

Future plans for the bank could include a new branch in West Memphis in the next few years.

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