Archive for Thursday, August 21, 2008

Great American Bank sale official

August 21, 2008

Ownership of De Soto's Great American Bank transferred with the first of the month, but unlike past transfers there was no change in signage to mark the sale.

"That was one of the things we wanted to make sure wasn't going to happen," said Travis Hicks, the bank's new president and CEO. "It's a seamless transaction. If you drive by the bank, you won't notice anything at all."

On July 31, First Financial Bancshares of Lawrence's purchase of Great American Bank in De Soto from Financial Services Corporation of St. Louis, Mo., became effective. The transaction was announced in February pending approval of regulatory agencies.

Although the Great American Bank isn't changing the sign, the purchase does herald change to how things are done at the bank. As it was when it was De Soto State Bank, Great American Bank is an independent community bank with one location in De Soto and not wholly owned subsidiary of a corporation based elsewhere.

"There will be a big difference," Hicks said. "All loans, all big bank management decisions were coming out of Kansas City or St. Louis.

"The De Soto State Bank was focused on the core relationships with the people in this community. We will be as well."

Hicks has roots in De Soto as a former resident and graduate of De Soto High School. In addition, he has a decade of experience working in the Johnson County banking market, he said.

With the purchase, First Financial Bancshares is a multi-bank holding company with $110 million in assets, owning and operating Great American Bank in De Soto and Lawrence Bank in Lawrence. The chairman of the board is Douglas Compton and Les Dreling is president and CEO of Lawrence Bank.

First Financial acquired Lawrence Bank in January 2006. It has grown from $33 million in assets to $74 million with strong earning since that time.

Hicks, who was a part of that growth, said he was confident the De Soto bank would experience the same strong growth.

"I think a lot of bankers will tell you banking is all about relationships and getting to know your customers," he said. "Knowing them and helping them is what makes a bank grow. That's been true for my 10 years in the business. Customers want to know you know their business. It all has to do with management."

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