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.
In Arkansas, one in 10 households currently do not have a bank account. Because of this, most families rely on expensive services to access their money and to monthly bills. Luckily, a new program called Bank on Arkansas+ is working to expand access to banking in these underserved communities. Southern Bancorp is one of the leading institutions helping launch the program with their new Opportunity Card. Watch the news report here.
Little Rock, Arkansas based Southern Bancorp has made a successful business model out of serving places larger banks ignore. Bill Wright, a Little Rock native who leads the Bank's western region, proudly rattles off the names of business owners the bank has supported. Recently, as the bank seeks to expand into further markets in the area, it received $7.5 million from SFRE, a group of global investors interested in banks with a social mission.
Southern Bancorp has completed several acquisitions since the financial crisis, but the biggest bank it bought had just $211 million in assets. Those acquisitions have largely focused on rural markets in Arkansas and Mississippi. CEO Darrin Williams sees no reason to alter that strategy after bringing in almost $18 million in fresh capital. Southern plans to keep scooping up banks that target largely underserved populations. “We want to be profitable but with a purpose,” Williams said. “We talk about riding a bicycle. The front wheel is our mission, while the back wheel pushes us forward. No margin, no mission.”