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.
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.”
Darrin Williams, CEO of Southern Bancorp, was recently interviewed on the Your Mark on the World Podcast, and the footage is featured on Forbes. Williams discussed his bank's mission and strategy, saying, "Often our competition is not another bank; [it is] a payday lender or pawn shop, or someone who provides alternative forms of capital or credit that really strip wealth. So we really do a lot of outreach. We don't wait for people to come to the bank. We take the bank to them."