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THE STORY

One of the South’s fastest-growing financial institutions did not originate in a large, metropolitan area or grow with the usual bank business plan. Community Bancshares of Mississippi, Inc., started more than 100 years ago in a small timber community in east central Mississippi and has grown by employing a unique approach to one of America’s most routine industries.
From 1995 until today, with few acquisitions, Community Bancshares has grown from $200 million in assets and a couple of offices to more than $2.4 billion in assets, 40 offices and over 660 employees in four states.

THE MODEL

Community Bank’s window of opportunity came in the 1980s when the organization was faced with three distinct challenges that many banks face even today: how to create big bank services and economies of scale while maintaining the advantages of being a true, local community bank; how to find an innovative way to continue to improve in customer service; and how to compete with the aggressive expansion of competitor banks’ branches. Community Bank’s ultimate answers to those challenges helped fuel tremendous growth that today spreads the organization’s reach across four Southern states.

A FAMILY OF LOCAL BANKS

First, to create big bank synergies, Community Bank decided to establish separately chartered banks that operate independently but share services within a common holding company. Unlike most banks which have a central office that dictates policy to branches, this structure gave Community Bank the best of both worlds — pooled resources that can afford expensive technologies and services and local decision makers empowered to act with the community in mind.

This structure not only helps Community Bank offer true community banking, but allows for better trained management as well. Many banks have their quality people serving as branch managers or division directors under the direction of a central office where these people gain little true executive experience in running a bank independently. At Community Bank, CEOs operate their banks independently as true executives—overseeing their bank’s loan portfolio, managing deposits, directing different bank functions, providing leadership in their community, making strategic competitive decisions in their marketplace, working with their own board of directors, and negotiating shared services with their sister banks. This creates a highly effective training ground for leaders.

In an effort to allow all of the bank CEOs to participate in the decision making process for the system and as a way to foster creativity, a combined management meeting is held once a month. At this meeting, holding company management and all bank CEOs are represented. Policy is debated, decided, and delegated at these meetings, and CEOs are given the opportunity to not only represent their individual bank interests, but also to shape the direction of the entire banking system.

OWNERS WORK HARDER

Second, in an attempt to gain a unique edge in the never-ending battle to outperform the competition in the area of customer service, Community Bank took an extraordinary step. Unlike some banks whose retirement programs require an employee contribution before providing a match, Community Bancshares established an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Under this plan, all staff members are fully funded a percentage of their total compensation each year which is invested in the bank’s stock. The move not only provides a comfortable nest egg for Community Bank staffers, but also gives them a vested interest in bank performance — particularly in how their own customer service delivery could enhance the bank’s bottom line and, therefore, their own bottom line.

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

Lastly, when faced with bank competition whose strategy was to build branches on every street corner and find employees to fill it, Community Bank’s response was simple — do the opposite. Community Bank answered by building community headquarters in a few strategic locations, providing customers a superior staff, and taking the money saved and translating it into better rates for customers. The strategy has helped Community Bank surpass its competitors in efficiency by routinely carrying more assets per office than other banks in the South.

THE SECRET

Ask Thomas W. Colbert, Community Bancshares Chairman and author of its growth model, what is the secret of the bank’s success and the answer will be quick and simple: “people.”

The bank takes extraordinary steps to identify and recruit topflight bank talent. Once in the organization, in addition to being owners in the bank, staff members are allowed to earn higher than normal levels of authority and independence in bank decision making. And if that weren’t enough, the bank goes the extra mile to keep their staff happy at work, including the ESOP, bonuses, benefits, clothing allowances, and other incentives. Community Bank even pays for undergraduate courses for staff members who want to pursue degrees — even if they are not finance-related.

The underlying theory in this business model is that good people in a happy workplace are the most effective instrument a bank can have in generating income. This philosophy is one of the reasons Community Bank was named one of the “Best Places to Work” by a leading business publication. People are never identified as employees at Community Bank. The thinking goes that “employees” are merely “managed,” but “people” are “nurtured.”

THE COMMUNITY

Community Bank also prides itself on creating community leaders in the areas it serves. Bank staff is encouraged to be involved in local activities and given the freedom to do so easily. Community Banks participate in their communities in ways no other chain banks do. Staff members coach Little League teams, serve as volunteer firemen, work with local chambers of commerce, sing in church choirs, give to local charities, host senior activities, and preside over civic clubs. You will find them in their neighborhoods helping to build a better community.

Community Bank believes if you are going to invest in having the best people you should show them off in the community. Community Bank is proud of its people and believes their involvement in their community is not just good for business, it’s simply the right thing to do.

THE VALUES

Community Bank takes great pride in the values embraced by its bank family. Community Bank leaders believe simple values — all too often ignored by today’s society — can lead to a better quality of life for their staff and customers. Values like fairness, integrity, honesty, respect, humility, self-sacrifice and simple kindness are all hallmarks of the type of organization Community Bank strives to build everyday. From rejecting popular bank products thought to be unfair to customers to fostering a respectful and edifying work environment for staff members, Community Bank puts its values into action every day.

THE TECHNOLOGY

Operations Center

At Community Bank, we still believe in old-fashioned values, but we are on the cutting edge of modern technology to provide you with more tools to manage your money in this ever-changing world.

We have recently invested in a new Operations Center that provides state-of-the-art security and the highest standards of technology. Our Operations Center is energy efficient with complete server virtualization to ensure maximum computing efficiency and minimum electrical requirements, including motion activated lighting sensors.

With more security features than ever before, our Operations Center includes card key access with data center and communications multi-factor authentication access. We have also included extensive camera deployment across the exterior and interior of the facility.

Additionally, we have redundant data paths, power supplies, network interfaces, generators, and data application of all servers to our off-site DR center. The safety, security and privacy of our customers’ personal information is of the utmost importance at Community Bank, and that is why we are always working to improve our systems for today–and tomorrow.

New Apps and Mobile Banking

Improving our technology means making our customers’ life easier and less complicated when it comes to banking. Secure access to your bank information is literally at your fingertips with our cellTeller mobile banking feature. With cellTeller, you can access your accounts using any web-enabled mobile device. Check your balance, transfer funds or pay bills with the smart, simple, secure and free cellTeller product of Community Bank.

With our new Community Bank iPad app, safe and quick access to your bank accounts will be even better than ever.

Remote Deposit

Community Bank’s remote deposit system, called myDeposit, lets you easily scan and electronically deposit checks to your business accounts right from your desk. This saves you time and the expense of driving to and from the bank. With myDeposit, you can make a deposit, not a trip.

Images of your checks are sent safely and securely to the bank to be processed just like they were delivered in-person. Customers can use their existing computer to connect to the Internet and one of our check scanners. The myDeposit product is making it easier and faster for our customers to do their banking business so they have more time to focus on their own business.

THE FUTURE

Community Bank celebrated its 100th birthday in 2005. All of that history might explain why so much of the organization’s future plans center around its past. The management team at Community Bank believes the strategy that helped the bank not only survive but grow over the last 100 years is a good model to follow in the future. That model includes recruiting topflight bank talent, staying in stride with emerging financial technologies, keeping a strong focus on local customer service delivery, maintaining credit quality throughout the system, and pursuing a sound expansion strategy into emerging growth markets across the South.

There are plenty of success stories in American business and in the banking industry in particular, but it is hard to find a success story with more fascinating chapters than the ones written by Community Bank. Our team is focused on making history in our community’s future.

THE TEAM

Community Bank’s management team is comprised of a solid group of executives with diverse backgrounds representing every aspect of the banking industry and every era of banking. Community Bank’s succession plan has two levels. Thomas Colbert, Freddie Bagley, and Chuck Nicholson hold the senior-most positions within the holding company. Underneath this holding company level are key officers who lead four banks and an operations center. These men and women form the pool from which successive leaders will be chosen.

THOMAS W. COLBERT
Senior Chairman of the Board, Community Bancshares, Inc.
Native: Trebloc, MS
Education: University of Mississippi, Banking and Finance; Graduate School of Banking of the South, Louisiana State University
Joined the Bank: 1968
FREDDIE J. BAGLEY
Chairman of the Board, Community Bancshares, Inc.
Native: Forest, MS
Education: Mississippi College, Mathematics; University of Mississippi School of Banking; Louisiana State University Graduate School
of Banking
Joined the Bank: 1976
CHARLES W. NICHOLSON, JR.
President and CEO, Community Bancshares, Inc.
Native: Pascagoula, MS
Education: University of Mississippi, General Business; Graduate School of Banking of the South, Louisiana State University
Joined the Bank: 1998
DAVID M. HUGHES
Chief Operating Officer, Community Bancshares, Inc.
Native: Biloxi, MS
Education: University of Southern Mississippi, Business Administration; University of Mississippi School of Banking; University of Oklahoma School of Banking
Joined the Bank: 2002
DARRELL BROWN
Vice Chairman of Administration, Community Bancshares, Inc.
Native: Forest, MS
Education: University of Mississippi, Computer Science; Graduate School of Banking of the South, Louisiana State University
Joined the Bank: 1985
WYMAN JONES
Vice Chairman and Chief Credit Officer, Community Bancshares, Inc.
Native: Waynesboro, MS
Education: Mississippi State University, Banking and Finance; Graduate School of Banking of the South, Lousiana State University
Joined the Bank: 1992
TIMOTHY P. GRAY
Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer, Community Bancshares, Inc.
Native: Forest, MS
Education: BSBA in Accounting, Mississippi College; Mississippi School of Banking; Certified Public Accountant, State of Mississippi; Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University
Joined the Bank: 1995
BOBBY KNOX
President and CEO, Community Bank, Ellisville
Native: Houston, MS
Education: University of Mississippi, School of Banking, Banking and Finance; Graduate School of Banking of the South, Louisiana State University
Joined the Bank: 1987
GREGORY A. MOORE
President and CEO, Community Bank of Mississippi
Native: Jackson, MS
Education: Mississippi State University, Business Administration, Banking and Finance
Joined the Bank: 2007
SIMON WEIR
President and CEO, Community Bank, North Mississippi
Native: Hernando, MS
Education: Mississippi State University; Southeastern School of Commercial Lending/Vanderbilt; Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University
Joined the Bank: 1998
OLIVER LATIL IV
Oliver Latil, IV Vice Chairman and CEO, Community Bank, Coast
Native: Ocean Springs, MS
Education: University of Mississippi, BBA Management; University of Mississippi School of Banking
Joined the Bank: 1997
FRED O. LEOPOLD, JR.
Vice Chairman, Florida Chief Executive Officer, Community Bank, Coast
Native: Hollywood, Florida
Education: Valdosta State University, BA/Business and Finance; The Stonier Graduate School of Banking, University of Pennsylvania
Joined the Bank: 2008
R. JONATHAN WHITE
Chief Information Officer, Community Bancshares, Inc; President Community Operations, Inc.
Native: Tupelo, MS
Education: Mississippi State University, School of Architecture
Joined the Bank: 2006

The History

1968

  • Thomas W. Colbert is named president and CEO, becoming Mississippi’s youngest bank CEO at the age of 28.

1977

  • Farmers and Merchants Corporation is incorporated as Mississippi’s first-ever bank holding company.

1983

  • Thomas W. Colbert becomes chairman of the holding company.

1991

  • Freddie J. Bagley is named president of the holding company.

1994

  • The holding company changes its name to Community Bancshares of Mississippi, Inc.

1995

  • Farmers and Merchants changes name to Community Bank of Mississippi.
  • Community Bancshares acquires Merchants and Manufacturers Bank of Ellisville, Mississippi.
  • Community Bancshares acquires Peoples Bank of Mississippi based in Indianola.

1996

  • Community Bancshares forms Community Bank, Coast in Biloxi, Mississippi.

1997

  • Community Bancshares forms Community Operations, Inc., a whollyowned subsidiary of the holding company that serves the operations needs of its member banks.

1998

  • Community Bancshares forms Community Bank, DeSoto County in Southaven, Mississippi.

1999

  • Community Bancshares is named one of Mississippi’s fastest-growing private companies by the Mississippi Business Journal’s annual survey.
  • Community Bancshares forms Community Bank, Meridian in Meridian, Mississippi.

2000

  • Community Bancshares surpasses the $1 billion in assets milestone.

2003

  • Community Bancshares acquires First National Bank of Lucedale in Lucedale, Mississippi.

2004

  • Community Bancshares acquires Security Bank in Amory, Mississippi.

2005

  • Thomas W. Colbert is inducted into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame.
  • Chuck Nicholson named chief operating officer of Community Bancshares.
  • By combining Community Bank, DeSoto County and Community Bank, Indianola, Community Bancshares moves into Tennessee by forming Community Bank NA (National Association) and opening an office in Memphis.

2006

  • Community Bank is named one of the “Best Places to Work” by the Mississippi Business Journal.
  • Community Bancshares joins with local investors to open a bank in Destin, Florida.
  • Community Bancshares surpasses the $2 billion in assets milestone.

2007

  • Community Bank is named one of the “Best Places to Work” by the Mississippi Business Journal for the second year in a row.
  • Community Bank, N.A. in Indianola and Community Bank in Amory join forces to create Community Bank, North Mississippi.
  • Community Bank is named one of the “Fast 40″ by the Mississippi Business Journal for being one of the top privately owned businesses in Mississippi.
  • Community Bank, National Association, headquartered in Lucedale, joins with Community Bank, Coast, headquartered in Biloxi.
  • Community Bank, National Association, opens office located in Mobile, AL.

2008

  • Community Bank is named one of the “Best Places to Work” by the Mississippi Business Journal for the third year in a row.
  • Community Bank is honored with the Better Business Bureau Integrity Award.
  • Community Bancshares opens state-of- the-art operations center in Brandon.

2009

  • Community Bank is named one of the “Best Places to Work” by the Mississippi Business Journal for the fourth year in a row.
  • Community Bank, National Association opens office located in Daphne, AL.

2010

  • Community Bancshares joins forces with Investment Professionals, Inc. to form their own investment group Community Investment Professionals.

2012

  • Community Bancshares, Inc., acquires 100% ownership of Community Bank of Florida.
  • Community Bank, National Association in Alabama and Community Bank, Destin, in Florida merge with Community Bank, Coast.

2013

  • Community Bank is named one of the “Best Places to Work” by the Mississippi Business Journal for the seventh year in a row.
  • Community Bank, Coast, opens new headquarters office in the Springhill area of Mobile, Alabama, and opens new office in Fairhope, Alabama.
  • Community Bank, Coast, purchases and opens a full –service banking office in Crestview, Florida.

2014

  • Community Bancshares, Inc. Board of Directors announces succession plan for senior management of the holding company. Plan names Thomas W. Colbert as Senior Chairman of the Board, Freddie J. Bagley as Chairman of the Board, Charles W. Nicholson, Jr., as President and Chief Executive Officer, and David M. Hughes as Chief Operations Officer.

 
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