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Bank's growth steadies.

Growth in Arkansas' banks apparently has steadied, second-quarter reports show.

Little change is evident among the banks from the first quarter ending March 31 -- either internally or among Arkansas Business' Top 25 ranking by assets.

"For the past six months, it's been about the same," says Julian Rainey of the Arkansas State Bank Department. "Growth has leveled off. Bank statements are showing no record earnings as interest as interest rates come down further. That trend is continuing."

Bill Garner, marketing director at First Commercial Bank of Little Rock, says, "One thing, loan demand is not particularly strong. There really haven't been any factors at work that would lead to heavy growth. And nothing is on the horizon to suggest a turnaround."

The consistent quarterly leaders of the ranking -- First Commercial and Worthen National Bank of Arkansas -- both enjoyed good news, though. Both Little Rock banks saw an increase in assets over the quarter after two consecutive down quarters.

First Commercial's assets grew 4.04 percent from the end of first quarter. It has increased 0.69 percent since the beginning of the year.

First Commercial recently consolidated its First Commercial Bank of England (Lonoke County) into its Little Rock system. That added $40 million in deposits and approximately $50 million in total assets to First Commercial's coffers, Garner says.

Worthen's assets grew 1.81 percent in the past three months.

A few banks showed growth or decline of more than 2 percent in the quarter. Generally, however, assets statewide changed less than 1 percent.

The largest gainer was Worthen National Bank of Pine Bluff, which climbed in the ratings based on its 7.6 percent increase in assets. For the year, the Pine Bluff bank has grown 11.67 percent.

The impressive growth is attributed to several factors, says Mary Cornwell, senior vice president for marketing.

"A lot of it is agri loans," she says. "We're one of if not the largest agri lender in the state. That department, under Mark Maxwell and Mitch Reid, has done a great job in expanding that area."

Expansion in commercial and consumer loans also have improved the bank's assets, Cornwell said. Another factor, she adds, are the bank's working hours, longer than those of competitors, that are attracting more depositors.

Also, Worthen National Bank of Pine Bluff and other banks across the state benefited from the closing of the Home Savings thrift, which gave banks a bigger slice of their respective markets.

The Bank of Bentonville also continued to exhibit growth with a 5.31 percent rise in assets over the quarter.

The biggest tumble was felt by Citizens Bank of Jonesboro, which saw its assets fall 8 percent from the first-quarter figure. Since Dec. 31, however, the bank still has grown 12.98 percent.

Another noticeable drop was seen at The First National Bank of El Dorado (3.68 percent for the quarter, 5.23 percent for the past six months).

Arkansas' banks appear on solid ground, though.

They "are in excellent shape statewide compared to other regions," Garner says. "Generally, it's because of conservative management and, I think, good management. Plus, the underlying economy of the state is stable. That helps produce an environment conducive to profitability, where you don't have sharp economic drops as in other areas."
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Title Annotation:Arkansas Business Rankings
Author:Harris, Jim
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Industry Overview
Date:Aug 24, 1992
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