Based in Searcy, Arkansas, First Security Bancorp has the most complete and diverse product offering of any Arkansas-based financial services holding company. Conway+ spoke with Johnny Adams, president and CEO of First Security Bank’s Conway market, about how community banks have navigated the COVID-19 pandemic and trends in the local housing market. First Security Bank is an Equal Housing Lender and Member FDIC.
How has First Security Bank fared as a result of the pandemic? What have been the biggest struggles?
2021 marked another challenging year for the business and banking community. We all continued with struggles to navigate the pandemic, supply chain issues, and employee recruitment challenges. I’m proud of our front-line employees and how they have continued to show up for our customers and community to provide banking services during this challenging time.
The bank, which is a part of First Security Bank across Arkansas, remained strong financially, which is important to our customer base and local economies. We opened in our Conway market close to 3,500 checking accounts and saw deposits grow locally to a record $851 million – up $120 million over 2020. We also booked more loans than ever before at $294 million in production. The bank in our local market reached a milestone of $1 billion in total assets. In the midst of struggles brought on by the pandemic, we were blessed with a good year from this great team of bankers here in Conway.
In what ways has the pandemic changed your customers’ needs? How has First Security adapted to meet those needs?
The way many customers bank has changed due to the pandemic. While we saw a rapid increase in the adoption of digital banking, it is unclear that if after the pandemic we will not see a return to our physical locations. As a community bank, we welcome customer visits to our locations and can combine that with the convenience of digital banking. We are always here locally to provide a personalized touch from someone you may already know and who understands you and your needs in helping with all services – new and old.
With advances in technology allowing for mobile banking and an increasingly remote workforce, what do you see for the future of community banks?
I see a strong future for community banks. Community banks have long played a role in helping customers become better prepared: through savings, investments, insurance, and income smoothing or lending needs. Advances in technology can’t totally replace the ability to pick up the phone and call your local banker who can help you through those issues. First Security saw that first hand in delivering the financial assistance of the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) during the pandemic. Our customers benefited from a local team dedicated to helping Conway business owners who had been adversely financially impacted due to COVID-19. We delivered millions of dollars in record speed to smooth the brunt of the pandemic on our local economy.
As a banking executive, what trends have you noticed in the Conway housing market, and what should buyers and sellers expect in 2022?
The housing market in the Conway area has definitely heated up in the past couple of years. We have seen real price appreciation, which has benefited existing homeowners with equity as they have sought to move up or to refinance. Also, continued low mortgage interest rates have often made owning a home more affordable than renting.
New home construction has been somewhat of a minefield with supply chain issues and rising costs. It’s not for the faint of heart, and many have had delays and higher-than-expected costs. It’s hard to say if prices will ever come back down, so even with the difficulties, locking in a home you want at a payment you can afford has proven to be sound financial advice for most families.
Conway has many great neighborhoods, and I’m also enjoying trends that reinvest in these homes with updates and renovations, bringing back families and vibrancy to the core of the community. Investing in Conway real estate has been a good bet for building equity and net worth and being home to a great quality of life.
What buyers and sellers could expect in 2022 is more of this great market! However, inflation concerns may bring interest rates up later in the year, making housing more expensive. Start planning now if you’re in the market for a home. It may take some time to find exactly what you are looking for, and you don’t want to miss this opportunity.
Supported by the strength of $1.5 billion in total capital and $8.1 billion in assets, First Security Bancorp can meet any financing need – right here in Arkansas. To learn more about First Security and its products, visit fsbank.com.