CEO of b1Bank talks about advice on small business, the state of the economy, cryptocurrency | Business

In 16 years, Baton Rouge-based b1Bank has become the largest Louisiana-based bank in terms of deposits.

The bank, which had more than $ 3.7 billion in deposits as of June 30, 2021, grew thanks to aggressive actions. In the last five years, b1Bank has grown five times in size, investing, developing and working hard, said CEO Jude Melville.

This runs counter to the stereotypes that public banks often face, he said.

“Community banks often gain a reputation for being drowsy, with their heads in the sand and somewhat opposed to change,” Melville said.

He attributes the bank’s success to its desire to transfer decision-making powers to bank employees in all communities where b1Bank operates. The bank has 37 branches in Louisiana, six in the Houston subway and three in Dallas-Fort Worth.

“One of the reasons for our success is that we were not an ivy tower that controls everything from here to headquarters,” he said. “Community banking is largely linked to local interaction, both on the part of industry and on the part of risk management. It is important for us to know our communities and it is important for us to make decisions in our communities. “

This attitude has driven the growth of b1 since it moved to Texas. The focus was on teaming up with good banking partners and building places where staff work, not on choosing the perfect location.

“I said, who is my teammate? And where is their center of influence? ” Said Melville. “We’ll build our branch around that.”

Melville, who has been CEO since 2011, recently sat down with the media to talk about b1Bank and the state of the financial industry. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

On the advice that b1Bank gives to its small business customers in the current environment of high inflation and rising interest rates:

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“One of the things you want to do just in running your business as a whole is try to diversify that customer base. This is probably even more important than during the recession.

“Here is my most specific advice on banking. You want to move on and make sure you have a relationship with a banker when things are good, so that when things get worse, you don’t introduce yourself for the first time. So from a banking standpoint, go now and log in. If you still don’t have a relationship with a business banker, start developing this. The best time to do this is when you don’t need to. “

For the state of the national economy:

“There is a good chance there will be a recession. I really don’t think that necessarily means it’s a big depression. I think there are a lot of good things happening there, and especially in our part of the world. In general, the south will be the region of the country that will grow the most in the next 10, 15 years. And all this will be positive for us over time. We may have a little difficult time until we get there. “

For cryptocurrency:

“There is a percentage of the population that will want to keep some of their money in alternative currencies. So we can either say, “Hey, we’re not doing this,” and they can go elsewhere than the regulated system, or we can come up with ways to help them serve them the way they want to be served. This is certainly something we are exploring.

“I think this will eventually become a permanent feature of our economic landscape. Does that mean he takes power? No. There is still a lot of strength, stability and confidence in the dollar and in our money circulation, and this is not leaving tomorrow. However, I think that up to 4% or 5% of the economy is in some form of digital currency? I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t. I don’t think this collapse will make him go far, but hopefully you can come back safer and more positive. “

On the status of overdraft fees, which are waived by many national and regional banks:

“We have a slightly different view and a different customer base than most large banks. So we are considering offering someone an overdraft as a service. This is a service provided to someone, usually in a time of need. There are several alternatives other than borrowing to pay, usurious sharks or not paying your bills. The choice then is, “Can people have access to overdrafts or are they out of the banking system?” And I think we would argue that keeping them in the banking system with reasonable, fair fees for what we provide is the right answer. .

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