Celebrating 40 years
Citizens National Bank (CNB) President David Verble has been with the bank since 1979, three years after he graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville with a degree in finance.
The bank, which now has 18 branches and over $803 million in assets, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Robbie Hargett, a staff writer atThe Mountain Press, sat down with Verble for a question-and-answer session on Thursday.
TMP: Talk about the history of the bank. What was it like when you started, and in what ways has it changed?
Verble: I started out just as a loan officer in financial reports, but back then you did a little bit of everything. When I started in ’79, it was only six years old and had about $20 million in assets. Everybody had to do a little bit of everything.
The biggest change has been in technology. We had pads of notes, and we used to hand-write everything. So if you wanted to borrow money, I’d put the date, your name, the amount you borrowed, the interest rates. Checking accounts and saving accounts were already automated, but daily balance stuff were hand-posted. You were just barely starting to have ATMs in ‘79, and we didn’t even have one here when I came. Internet and mobile banking hadn’t even been imagined at that time. So back then it was much more labor-intensive, but lending standards were much looser. You knew somebody, you knew their character, that kind of stuff, and now it’s a lot more regulated. You have to have the proper documentation, cash flows, underwriting, so forth. There’s some good and bad about that.
TMP: Do you think there’s too much regulation?
Verble: I think there’s way too much regulation. Of course, back in ’79 there probably wasn’t enough. But now regulation is one of the biggest hindrances. Some of the regulations are very burdensome and costly to comply with. Thirty years ago it was a very simple process to get a loan for a house. There were only a few pieces of paper to sign, and the forms were readable and understandable, and when you got through you knew what you had done. Today, there’s four or five times more papers to sign, all of them mandated by the government, none of which makes you a more knowledgeable buyer than you would’ve been with the shorter forms. I’m not saying there haven’t been unscrupulous lenders; that’s one reason you have all this regulation.
Banks have received negative publicity, some deserved, some undeserved. I’ve always thought that some of these economic crises were caused by bank-like creatures, some non-banks. Investment banks are not really banks, and they were big players in that. But now some of the big banks were also very involved.
TMP: What kind of civic work has the bank been involved in?
Verble: I think we’ve been a good corporate citizen. We have donated significant amounts, been big supporters of the Boys & Girls Club, new hospital expansion, the new library, United Way, Relay For Life, Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries, and I’m going to miss some of them, but why I’m really proud is because our employees all live and work here, and they’ve been equally generous in supporting various organizations. You’ll see a lot of them working at Relay For Life and all of that stuff. A lot of that time is their own time; they’re giving up some of their own time to better the community, and I think that’s important.
TMP: Are there plans for further expansion?
Verble: We bought the old SunTrust near us and tore that down, and some time in the future we may build onto our building. Our intentions are to keep our main office in downtown Sevierville, still hopeful it can get revitalized. It’s still the financial center of the county. Probably the next 3-5 years we’ll be starting that process.
We don’t have any current plans for new branches, but we are looking at potential other sites. We continuously look for opportunities, and I’m sure in the future we’ll expand some.
TMP: How has CNB survived and prospered over the years?
Verble: We’ve had a solid ideal as to how asset quality ought to be, and we’ve managed to change with the times and kept up with technology. I think we have a very good IT department, and that’s very helpful. And I think also our board of directors have taken a more conservative approach. It’s a strong board of local people that understand this economy, and we didn’t do some of the excesses that some of the other banks did.
The in-store strategy has been very good for our bank. Our first in-store bank was in the Walmart in Sevierville, and we used to joke that we built a 1,000-foot Walmart in the lobby for our customers’ convenience. The concept is basically that people are going to the grocery store a couple times a week anyhow, so if they’re going to be there why not be able to do their banking, too. That strategy has paid off because by the time the bank opens at 8 a.m., but the in-store banks open at 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m., so basically we can have continuous banking from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Being convenient is important to customers.