Q: How do community banks differ from larger regional banks?
A: Community banks focus attention on the needs of local businesses and families. Unlike many larger banks that may take deposits in one state and lend in others, community banks channel most of their loans to the neighborhoods where their depositors live and work, helping to keep local communities vibrant and growing. Community banks are able to offer quick decisions on all types of loans. We have a board of directors who are very involved in the community, making them familiar with the local economy. They understand the needs of small-business owners and, therefore, are very responsive to those needs. Decisions are not from a credit scoring system, but by careful consideration of character, cash flow and a business plan that will reinvest funds back into the community.
Q: Does the current economic situation create any unique challenges for community banks?
A: The current economic conditions have created challenges for all community banks. In 2008, with the sharp drop in interest rates during the month of January, which no one was forecasting, lending rates on variable rate loans changed immediately while deposit rates changed slower due to longer term fixed rate maturities on certificates of deposit. The results are shrinking margins and stiff deposit competition for all banks. Yet, despite the banking industry’s general sense of uncertainty, community banks and bankers remain cautiously optimistic for the remainder of 2008. Prudent lending and underwriting policies have protected most community banks from many of the widely publicized problems facing the big banks and mortgage companies as a result of the subprime mortgage meltdown.
Q: When the merger of GB&T and SunTrust is completed, Peach State will become the largest Hall County-based bank, how does that make you feel?
A: Peach State Bank & Trust was formed from an idea in 2004 by William M. House, current chairman of the board, and a group of nine local businessmen. They envisioned the need for a hometown community bank serving the financial needs of the citizens of Gainesville and Hall County. The idea soon blossomed as the group gained momentum from the local community, which supported the raising of $12.5 million capital in a record-setting 10 days. Peach State Bank & Trust has been able to attract and retain some of the best community banking professionals in Georgia, offering superior customer service and delivering state-of-the-art financial products with the newest technology available in the industry. If you do things right, the right things will happen. GB&T has been a strong force in the local market for many years, and SunTrust is the largest Georgia-based bank. Upon the completion of the merger, we will be pleased that yet another milestone has been reached for Peach State Bank & Trust.
Q: If you had to point to one thing that has contributed to the bank’s success, what would it be?
A: People — starting with a board of directors made up of 10 local businessmen, then adding 25 professional bankers, 340 community stockholders, and currently 3,825 customers and growing. With the hometown support Peach State Bank has received, it is apparent that the people who live and work in our market area enjoy banking with a true community bank, and we enjoy being able to give back to our community and the people we serve.
Q: What are the future plans for the bank?
A: Peach State Bank will continue to focus on ways to better serve the needs of the local community. We will strive to deliver the most efficient and cost-effective banking services in Gainesville and Hall County. We pride ourselves on knowing our customers by name and being able to reinvest local deposits back into our community to keep the economy growing. We will continue to evaluate additional opportunities for future locations that will meet the needs of our customer base and make strong financial sense for our stockholders.