A $46 million-asset community bank in Wilcox County, Georgia, is set to undergo a digital and mobile upgrade following a June takeover by Orlando, Florida-based ST Hldgs, a bank holding company led by investor Rajib Das.
Rochelle State Bank, which has one location in Rochelle, a town with 1,000 residents located 150 miles south of Atlanta, is the first acquisition for ST Hldgs, which was formed with the goal of identifying and investing in small community banks.
Das will serve as chairman of Rochelle State Bank, which was founded in 1947.
"When you're building something new, you don't want to be focused on fixing someone else's problems," Das said, adding the financial institution checked a lot of the investment group’s boxes. "Rochelle was a safe and sound institution, well capitalized and has been that way across economic cycles for the last 70-plus years."
Das declined to share the financial terms of the deal, but called the transaction "a fair shake."
ST Hldgs is a group of around 20 investors, a significant number of whom have experience investing in banks, Das said.
"We’re a group of investors that came together because we believe that community banking is something that's being forgotten," he said.
With bank mergers and acquisitions accelerating across the Southeast, and a decline in de novo bank charters since the Great Recession, Das said ST Hldgs aims to reverse what it believes is a growing void in community banking.
"We wanted to collect our capital to meet that void, and so this special-purpose entity is exclusively investing in community banks," he said. "Large banks are trying to move away from the personalization elements. Whether you're calling a 1-800 number, or you're trying to provide a service, it's more digital delivery for convenience, but also for customer service. We believe in digital delivery for convenience, and we want our customers to have all aspects of digitization, but we don't want to go away from personalization. It's what makes a community bank a community bank."
Das said the group plans to invest significantly in Rochelle’s online banking portal and roll out a new mobile banking option for customers, as well as new branding. Standard offerings such as checking and savings accounts and agriculture loans will remain, the group said.
"We are bringing the bank through digital modernization. As the months go on, you'll see more of that discussion come through as we take time to get that done, but we have already started the process," Das said.
ST Hldgs has also rounded out the bank’s management team, adding President and CEO Len Davenport and Executive Vice President Bryan Wilder.
"With Rochelle being a small town in South Georgia, having a close-knit community, we think we got a great franchise, and we can add to that franchise and grow from there," Das said.
ST Hldgs has a long-term vision for Rochelle State Bank, and is invested in seeing it grow, Das said.
"Banking is all about stability and patience. … We believe in that. So for us, the initial steps are to bring the digitization on board so that we can do more with the customers, and then grow our footprint in the market in South Georgia," he said. "We are exceedingly well capitalized and we are open to both organic and acquisition-driven growth, and that will come when it comes. We are here for the long run."
ST Hldgs plans to add more community banks to its portfolio, but Das said the group doesn’t have another target in the pipeline at this stage.
"For us, finding markets which are either forgotten or not the focus of our peers, where we can differentiate ourselves based on our product management skill set and our service — this is where we want to be," he said. "Knowing where you're lending, who your customer line is, sticking with them and helping them grow and achieve their dreams — that's what a banker is supposed to do."