Small Banks Get Bounce

By COLLEEN CREAMER

For The Tennessean

MidSouth Bank, a growing local financial institution, will add two new Murfreesboro branches, the bank’s president and chief operations officer, Ben Weatherford, said.

A branch at 2415 Memorial Boulevard and one at 2782 South Church Street are expected to open simultaneously this winter. With the two additions, the bank will have five locations in Rutherford County.

“We are making sure people understand that we are a home-town bank. We use that term because we are,” said Weatherford.

“It’s not that they (larger banks) aren’t good banks from a macro standpoint, but when you bring those policies down to Rutherford County, it’s not a perfect fit.”

The bank opened in January 2004 and began quickly to expand, due in part to the county’s extensive growth.

“Our ability to grow relates to the amount of capital we have raised,” said Weatherford. “We did raise a record amount of capital for a start-up bank in the state of Tennessee.”

The bank is home grown and also a family affair. Weatherford’s father, Jack Weatherford, the bank’s senior chairman, has been banking in Rutherford County for 40 years. The Weatherfords joined forces with current MidSouth Bank chairman and CEO Lee Moss who came from SunTrust Bank.

“Our bank was started by folks that have experience banking in the Rutherford County market so we are very familiar with our customers, the history plus the potential for the future,” said Ben Weatherford.

He said the county’s growth is spurring bank growth.

“There is a tremendous amount of growth in Rutherford County,” Weatherford said.

“There are a lot of decent sized transactions occurring and it gives us the ability to compete very effectively and to offer services to our customers of almost any size.”

Larger national banks, said Weatherford, do not allow for thinking outside the box when lending.

“Obviously, we are going to be wise in making decisions for the bank, but we are going to use common sense. Not every loan request fits neatly in a box,” Weatherford said. ”

He said knowing the borrower’s background and financial strength helps in making personalized decisions.

“That does not mean we can make every loan, but there are plenty of loans that we have made that we think are very credit worthy loans that might not have not fit the loan policy of some other bank.”

Weatherford said MidSouth was offering services not normally seen from star-up financial institutions.

“To me what is unique to a new bank in Tennessee is that we offer investment services and trust services,” Weatherford said.

The bank surpassed $100 million in total assets in June, 17 months from the bank’s opening on January 20, 2004.

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