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Banking billions: two Little Rock banks break $1 billion barrier.

Two Arkansas banks now have assets of more than $1 billion.

The $1 billion barrier was broken during the third quarter of 1991 by a pair of Little Rock financial institutions, First Commercial Bank and Worthen National Bank of Arkansas.

First Commercial and Worthen are among the top 4 percent of the nation's banks when ranked by asset size.

Of 12,606 U.S. banks, 422 have assets of more than $1 billion, according to Veribanc, a bank-rating service in Wakefield, Mass.

Still, First Commercial and Worthen are a long way from giant Citibank of New York, which has assets of $160 billion.

They're even a long way from 25th-ranked Marine Midland Bank of Buffalo, N. Y., which has assets of $17 billion.

"A $1 billion bank is not large by national standards," says Jack Fleischauer Jr., president of $1.2 billion Worthen.

He adds, "Larger banks can provide more services. The Arkansas economy needs a shot in the arm. If we can truly take advantage of our growth, it ought to be good for the community."

Fleischauer says more assets allow a bank to finance additional start-up businesses along with industries that are recruited to the state.

"It is exciting for us to be part of a company that is on the move," Fleischauer says. "It wasn't too long ago that our bank went through some difficult times. We're excited about our opportunities."

Worthen National Bank of Arkansas is the flagship of Little Rock-based Worthen Banking Corp. Fleischauer came to Little Rock earlier this year from his position as chairman, president and chief executive officer of Worthen National Bank of Hot Springs.

More Billions

Reaching the $1 billion mark in assets is a "milestone," according to Ron Strother, 43, president and chief operating officer of $1.3 billion First Commercial. "More opportunities are available to a large, healthy financial institutions. There is an ability to handle larger loans."

The Little Rock bank is the flagship of First Commercial Corp., a holding company with continued growth on its agenda.

First Commercial Corp. continues to make acquisitions from the Resolution Trust Corp. But the company's expansion policy is not limited to failed thrifts.

"First Commercial has pursued an affiliation plan with quality banks across the state for many years," Strother says. "We are interested in affiliating with good banks in good towns with good management."
Increasing Assets
First Commercial Bank -- Little Rock
Assets Date
$921 Million Dec. 31
$956 Million March 31
$983 Million June 30
$1.306 Billion Sept. 30
Worthen National Bank of Arkansas -- Little Rock
Assets Date
$896 Million March 31
$921 Million June 30
$1.182 Billion Sept. 30


Off The Chart

While some Little Rock banks saw their assets increase, another continues to drop.

One National Bank is no longer among the top 20 banks in assets.

At the end of 1990, Onebank was the seventh-largest Arkansas bank with assets of $243 million. By the end of June, assets were down to $225 million.

Assets now stand at $140 million following the July sale of eight North Little Rock branches to Worthen.
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Title Annotation:First Commercial Bank N.A.; Worthen National Bank of Arkansas
Author:Gibson, Carolyn
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Nov 25, 1991
Words:516
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