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The Murray Bank Amasses $300 Million in Assets

by Jon Wright, Murray Ledger and Times

Ronnie Gibson recalled Monday discussing The Murray Bank’s future with the bank’s nine core organizers shortly after that bank began operating in 1998.

Gibson said one of them asked about the potential of the bank when it came to the amount of assets it could handle once it reached full maturity. Gibson remembered saying he thought that number might be $275 million, which would be a record for a locally-owned bank in Murray and Calloway County.

A few weeks ago, Gibson learned he had missed the target, but by underestimating it.

“My first thought was ‘WOW!” said Gibson, the founding President and CEO of The Murray Bank. He has since retired from everyday duties and is now the Chairman of the Board at the bank. “I was surprised that we had surpassed ($275 million) by that much. The next thought was to congratulation everyone who has been involved in this. Then you sort of smile."

“We have felt blessed with everything that has happened. It’s a dream come true.”

Current Murray Bank President and CEO Bob Hargrove said The Murray Bank is only one of three locally-owned banks to have existed in the community. The others were the Bank of Murray and People’s First, both of which were eventually purchased by larger banking firms.

“Bank of Murray ended with $244,984.00 when they were sold in 1994. When that happened, People’s picked up a lot of the Bank of Murray’s customers and they got to $265,742.00 when they were bought in February 2000,” Hargrove said, noting that assets factors in such things as loans, investments and capital.

“It’s unbelievable I think that we’ve been able to do this with the amount of competition we have here now. Yet, as of June 30, 2016 we had 30.36% of the deposits business in town. The latest figures on that are due in the next few weeks and I think indicators are showing we may gain another percentage point or two. Why? I think it’s our employees and customer service, along with the fact that people here want a community bank.”

Gibson was Executive Vice President of Lending at the Bank of Murray when he resigned in 1997 as the bank prepared to be sold. He then aligned with the core organizers; Tripp Furches, David Graham, Rick Jones, Stuart Poston, Jerry Smith, Robert Swift, David Taylor and Dr. Charles Tucker.

“Everybody had the same vision,” said Gibson, who opened the first account of the new bank, then located in the former Charlie’s Pharmacy building at the intersection of Glendale Road and Whitnale Street. “Those first few days were kind of scary too. We had to make sure everything worked. You don’t just open a bank. There’s a lot of things you have to take care of.

“Plus, we had 155 shareholders involved, so this was also about my name and my career. You didn’t want them to lose money.”

A move Gibson hoped to make became available in 2004 with the hiring of longtime friend Hargrove as Executive Vice President. This was after Hargrove, who had been at People’s for several year’s, had accepted a Vice President’s position with Area Bank, which had purchased People’s and is under the BB&T title.

“This was something that had only been done a few times here. In fact, the last one to form locally was People’s in 1931, and others had failed,” said Hargrove. “It has gone well, though. We started in Charlie’s Pharmacy building with just nine employees. They came to the south side location in September 2000 and they knew we were going to build this building along. Then came the North Branch in 2002 and then came Hazel in 2014.
“In that time, we have gone from nine employees to 60, including part-time. The biggest majority of those are full time, but something we’re proud about is that a majority of our part-time Murray State students who hope to move on to a career in banking, and many of them do.”

Gibson also said  creating a desirable work environment has been key to the bank’s success. That, in turn, he said, leads to smooth customer relations.

“One thing I have told our people is, ‘It’s just our policy’ is not an answer,” he said. “You tell them why we can’t do it and if you can’t give that answer, you send them to someone who can answer that. Who are going to be the ones that see the most every day? Our Tellers. I’ve told them that if they see something that they feel needs to be changed, they can come to me. Maybe we’ve got a bad policy."

“That’s part of operating as a company with $50 million in assets to one with $250 million. There are going to be times you need to act different.”