Southern Bancorp, Inc. is one of America’s largest rural development banks with approximately $1.1 billion in assets, serving over 80,000 customers at 39 branches in both Arkansas and Mississippi. Southern was founded in 1986 by then Governor Bill Clinton, Wal-Mart Chair Rob Walton, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and others who were concerned about the economic decline of rural Arkansas. Southern invests in people and businesses in rural communities, empowers them to improve their lives and helps them transform their communities.
The Mississippi Delta faces a myriad of financial struggles that will need innovative solutions to resolve. Southern Bancorp is one of the forces doing important work to meet that need. When Bubba O'Keefe, the official tourism director of the small town of Clarksdale, wanted to acquire a local theater, Southern Bancorp stepped in to finance it. And then when the theater's roof fell through and required servicing, Southern's CEO Darren Williams stood by O'Keefe's side. With ventures like this, the financing of a new local hotel, and financial literacy classes, Southern Bancorp goes above and beyond to uplift this small town, and the greater Mississippi area.
Southern Bancorp has announced its opposition to a proposed rule change by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some consumer advocates say the change would water down the rules that prevent payday loan operators and other predatory lenders from pushing high-interest loans on unwitting borrowers. "As a CDFI, Southern Bancorp focuses our efforts in [the] rural, low-income communities in which we see the devastating effects of predatory loans," said Southern Bancorp CEO Darrin Williams. "We support the original rule and encourage the CFPB to reconsider rescinding it so that families in Arkansas, Mississippi, and beyond can access credit responsibly."
During the long government shutdown, Southern Bancorp announced that it would provide assistance to affected customers by waiving overdraft fees and providing immediate access to a no fee, no credit check, zero interest loan of up to $1,500. Emergency loans were stated to be payable within six months or upon the resumption of government operations. "Southern Bancorp stands ready to assist our customers in this stressful time," said Darrin Williams, Southern Bancorp CEO.