Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Independence Bank ranks second in the nation among community banks

Independence Bancshares Inc. has grabbed the No. 2 spot in a leading financial intelligence provider’s ranking of the best-performing community banks in the country with between $500 million and $5 billion in assets.

Texas-based Westar Bank Holding Co. Inc. was No. 1 in the national rankings.

Independence, with $1.012 billion in assets, did not significantly out-perform the top 100 banks in any one category used for the analysis, but it scored well enough across the board to lock in second place.

That assessment came from SNL Financial, which provides information and analysis for banks, financial, insurance, real estate, energy and media/communications companies.

“That means there was nothing extreme in any one area,” Independence President Darrell Higginbotham said. “We performed well enough in all categories to earn that second ranking.”

Of the 760 community banks that fit SNL’s criteria for the rankings, none has more than 60 offices.

If consolidated information was reported, the bank was ranked at the holding company level. Otherwise, SNL used commercial bank subsidiary data.

Higginbotham said another major takeaway from the No. 2 ranking is that it’s an asset for the community to have a nationally-ranked bank with the strength and stability to meet the region’s financial needs.

Here is Independence’s performance in the six areas that were ranked: 1.89 percent in return on average tangible assets before tax; .11 percent in net charge-offs as a percent of average loans; .46 percent adjusted nonperforming loans as a percent of total loans; 54.46 percent operating expenses as a percent of operating revenue; 4.37 percent net interest margin; 9.02 percent loan growth rate.

Higginbotham and CEO Chris Reid attribute the company’s success to its quality employees.

“We also think that it’s a validation of our strategies, of how we provide community bank services, and that communities are responding to how we do business,” Higginbotham said.

Northern Bancorp Inc. of Woburn, Mass. kept its net charge-offs to almost zero (.01 percent) to make it into the third slot.

Kentucky placed seven of its 22 banks eligible for this analysis in the top 100.

Independence Bank’s roots are in McLean County where Farmers & Merchants Bank opened in 1909. The modern-day history, however, began in 1971 when Charles A. Reid and Maurice E. Reisz purchased that bank and Providence State Bank in Webster County.

Soon after, current CEO Chris Reid joined his father and uncle and assumed a leadership role in the banks. In 1997, the two small banks were incorporated under one name, Independence Bank.

The bank has grown fast with offices now in Henderson and Owensboro, Sebree, Beech Grove, Hawesville, Lewisport, Bowling Green and Paducah.

The banks now employ more than 250 people.

Joy Campbell, 691-7299,

Community Campus receives grant funding

Community Campus has received two grants totaling $125,000 to fund and help expand the campus’ biomedical and energy technology academies that will enroll students in the fall and next year.

An experimental partnership between local school districts, colleges and businesses, Community Campus is tasked with finding new ways to educate students. The goal is to better prepare students for college or the job market by teaching them real-world situations and applications of their lessons.

These grants are both funded by the national education initiative Project Lead the Way, according to a release from Daviess County Public Schools, one of the key partners in Community Campus.

Marcia Carpenter, DCPS College and Career Readiness Coordinator, said Project Lead the Way is an education initiative based on improving education, just as Community Campus is.

“Project Lead the Way, what makes it unique is that it is relevant, the learning that students do is meaningful and everything is related to a real-world situation. Students are hungry for relevance,” Carpenter said. “I think the fact that we received the grant is an acknowledgement of the faith they have in what is being done in this area.”

The first grant, $50,000, will go to the Life Sciences Academy that is due to enroll students for the 2012-13 school year. The funds will be used to implement a four-class course of study under the academy.

“The Life Science Academy will start for the 2012-13 school year and this grant provides the start-up money for the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Program, which will be the anchor for that academy,” Carpenter said. “It’s all learning by doing. All of the projects are based on simulations of real-life situations ... “It (the grant) also directly meets the needs that have been identified in our community for a growing health care community.”

The second grant, worth $75,000, will go to fund the Construction, Energy and Trades Academy and create an integrated pipeline course that will help middle school students interested in energy-related fields get on track to that academy.

“The energy-technology side starts with middle school. It’s a pipeline program that will lead into high school for an awareness on the kind of energy that we are using, the kinds of energy we’ll be using in the future and the consequences of energy use, such as pollution control,” Carpenter said.

Daviess County Public Schools Superintendent Tom Shelton said the grant funding is a big boost to Community Campus.

“I think it’ll definitely help us move Community Campus and our academies forward,” Shelton said. “This really builds the foundation for us in each of these programs.”

Shelton added that because of the cooperative nature of Community Campus, this money goes to help more than just one school system.

“It’ll benefit not only our district, but students from other surrounding school districts as well,” Shelton said. “These grants allow us also to have further conversations about how to structure programs for the future and continue to expand opportunities for students that we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Dariush Shafa, 691-7302,