No business epitomizes surviving the Great Recession in Southern Nevada than Town & Country Bank, which now considers itself well-positioned in the recovering economy.
The business-oriented community bank, which opened in April 2002, rode the wave of economic development and growth in Las Vegas in the early part of last decade.
The bank was a startup venture of West Point Bancorp. Inc., a Nebraska-based bank holding company that saw potential in the Las Vegas market. West Point, formed in 1977, owns banks in Nebraska and one in Iowa. Town & Country expanded to add three branches in the valley before the recession.
When the nation’s financial industry collapsed and the economy tanked, Town & Country was hit hard and was operating under Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. consent order in the aftermath of the recession. It lost $4.6 million in 2012, but by 2013 it was profitable again and has remained so.
That happened in an environment in which hundreds of Nevada businesses shuttered and banks either closed or merged.
“We lost a lot of banks in Nevada. If you look at those numbers, there were as many as 24 state-chartered banks, and now it’s down to eight community banks,” said Darrel Small, president and chief executive officer, who came on board in 2013. “Recently, the Las Vegas economy has experienced some welcomed recovery. Stabilizing property values and increased business activity are both positive signs of improvement. Having navigated through the recession, Town & Country Bank is now well-positioned to increase its lending activity and offering continued personal service.”
Some banks relied on government help, like the TARP program, or merged with others to gain strength. Town & Country Bank chose not to do either, Small said. Its ownership comprises a few families who have been in banking together for 39 years, and when Town & Country Bank needed additional resources, the ownership contributed out of their own capital without relying on taxpayer aid, he said.
“This bank would have not survived if there had not been a commitment from these families,” Small said. “That commitment to Las Vegas community banking, local businesses and the families these businesses support, is something we are proud of.”
The mission of the bank hasn’t changed, said Small, former president of the Wyoming Bankers Association, who now serves as a federal delegate for the state of Nevada to the Independent Community Bankers of America. Town & Country is still a community bank focused on meeting the needs of business customers, he said.
“Many of the small businesses are not large enough for regional banks to even consider them as customers,” Small said. “If you’re not borrowing $2.5 million, they don’t have time for you. We really fit the need. We are a high-touch community bank meeting the needs of small business.”
Town & Country has about 2,000 customers. It represents a wide range of businesses from manufacturers and restaurants to retail businesses and small homebuilding companies, Small said. The bank has even financed shopping centers.
“The loan demand has picked up, and the economic activity has picked up, which we are happy to see,” Small said. “The bank itself has grown over the last couple of years since the end of the recession. Over the last couple of years, we have turned around locally. We have been doing very well.”
In the past three years, the bank’s total assets have gone from $115 million to $140 million, Small said. The high point before the recession was about $180 million. The bank has about $120 million in deposits and $108 million in loans, a figure that grew by 18 percent in 2015. Loans are on track grow 10 percent this year, he said.
“You can grow a bank fast if you want to, but that’s not smart,” Small said. “Steady growth is what we want to see. Five to 10 percent annual growth is good. Once you start growing fast, if you’re loan demand is fast, you’re trying to meet it and you need liquidity so you stretch your net interest margin. When you’re trying to grow fast, you make concessions to your asset quality.”
Small said he doesn’t know what 2017 will bring when it comes to the economy. He said there is a mixed bag of signals coming out nationally, which affects Las Vegas. Locally, Southern Nevada is on a good track to continue its recovery, he said.
“There were some slowdowns here and there and possible slowdown in building permits and construction after we get through this peak at the moment,” Small said. “That’s a national trend, and we’re not sure we would be immune to that. I believe even if things are steady, we will be fine. All we need is good steady growth and we’re headed in the right direction. I think Nevada is going to do that. It won’t be 15 to 20 percent appreciation or that type of influx, but as long as we can keep it on the positive side of zero, it’s a growing economy.”
The bank will continue to focus on its high touch with businesses its serves with the philosophy of a Midwestern-owned bank, Small said. By maintaining in-house processing and loan systems, it ensures the quality and quickness of its services, he said.
“Virtually everything the bank does is performed right under its roof,” Small said. “Our customers know that decisions are made by the employees they see every day in our banks as opposed to some out of state committee or processing center.”