Bank Notes: Meridian Bank completes acquisition of State Bank

Meridian Bank completes acquisition of State Bank Fort Worth-based Meridian Bank Texas has completed its acquisition of State Bank and Trust Co. of Carrollton, the company said June 18. The combined banking operation has more than 60 employees in five locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area – in Carrollton, Dallas, Fort Worth and two branches in Denton. The bank has total assets of nearly $450 million. Meridian Bank Texas opened in 2007 and focuses on commercial real estate, energy lending and business banking. It is part of Marquette Financial Companies, a $1.2 billion banking and financial services holding company owned by the Pohlad family. Based in Minneapolis, the organization has been involved in banking in North Texas since the 1990s with its ownership of First State Bank of Texas. Glenn Monroe, chairman and CEO of Meridian Bank Texas, cites the complementary geographic and service lines as benefits of the combination. “We’re both family-owned, coming from a long history of community banking success. The cultural similarities will translate to our clients in Fort Worth, Dallas and Denton as we coordinate and expand the services in each market,” Monroe said.

SIGMA PAYMENT ADDS LOAN PAYMENT OPTION Fort Worth-based Sigma Payment Solutions recently introduced a new pay-by-phone technology to its suite of loan payment channels available nationwide. Pay-by-phone leverages Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology and improves collectors’ efficiency by speeding up the payment process. On average, an inbound IVR system processes a payment in 3.5 minutes compared with 5.5 to 6 minutes when a collector works the account. The automated solution also costs 65 cents or less per payment, a significant savings over the human alternative. “By giving borrowers one more convenient way to pay their bills, we remove the hurdles to paying on time,” said Susan Perlmutter, chief revenue officer at Sigma. “In addition, there’s no risk of the payment data being recorded incorrectly or of customers’ confidential information falling into the wrong hands.” The company will roll out a pay-by-text program this summer.

THINK FINANCE FUNDS MENTORING FOR NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENTS Think Finance, a Fort Worth provider of analytics and technology services for lenders, made a $60,000 donation in the name of three Native American tribes to fund a pilot program that helps students attend college and succeed there. The Strive for College program recruits undergraduate student mentors from local universities to guide low-income high school students through the college application, financial aid and scholarship processes at four-year colleges and universities. Strive for College’s pilot program offers virtual mentoring for the first time to Native American students in some of the most remote and impoverished areas of the country. Think Finance contributed $20,000 each on behalf of three tribes: Louisiana’s Tunica Biloxi, Montana’s Chippewa Cree and Oklahoma’s Otoe Missouria. The initial donation will fund 20 students per tribe.

OMNIAMERICAN BANK PARTNERS WITH THE LADDER ALLIANCE For the inaugural year of its Women Empowered in Business program, OmniAmerican Bank of Fort Worth has selected The Ladder Alliance as its philanthropic partner. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping at-risk women, who are often victims of domestic violence, to become self-sufficient through learning marketable job skills while rebuilding their self-esteem and self-confidence. Clients of The Ladder Alliance learn basic to advanced computer skills and are offered GED classes to increase their potential for employment. In addition to launching the WEB program, OmniAmerican has collected gently-used clothing and accessories donated by customers and professional women at each of the bank’s locations for the nonprofit’s Success Store. The bank also has provided money management tools to those served by The Ladder Alliance. “OmniAmerican is passionate about serving women in our community through our Women’s Initiative, which combines our corporate giving, as well as programs like WEB, that contribute to women professionally and personally,” said Anne Holland, OmniAmerican senior executive vice president and chief lending, sales and marketing officer. Holland said the bank recently hosted 50 Ladder Alliance students and graduates for a dinner and evening of “Financial Literacy 101,” where attendees gained financial knowledge.

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ACCION TEXAS GETS APPROVAL TO CUT WAIT TIME FOR SBA LOANS The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) granted Accion Texas Inc., a nonprofit microlending company and small-business lender, the “delegated authority” to cut approval times for applicants for 7a Community Advantage loans from up to four weeks to within four days. The SBA 7a Community Advantage program offers qualifying businesses small-business loans of up to $250,000 to start or expand a business. Accion Texas started participating in the loan product in July 2011, after the SBA started the pilot program that February. Since then, Accion has approved 20 loans totaling more than $2.9 million to small businesses in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas. With delegated authority, Accion can approve 7a Community Advantage loans to small businesses without forwarding applications to the SBA to review, cutting the approval process down from weeks to just days. The SBA gives the designation of “delegated authority” to mission-focused, community-based lenders that serve low-income communities, based on the organization’s loan volume and loan quality. Earlier this year, Accion Texas received an award from the National Association of Development Companies for being one of the top 10 SBA 7a Community Advantage lenders in the nation. The San Antonio-based company placed fifth among several dozen lenders participating in the SBA program. “Our goal this year is to double our approvals for the 7a program to $2.2 million. Being given delegated authority will help us achieve this goal,” said Dan Lawless, chief lending officer at Accion Texas. The Community Advantage loan was designed for underserved communities whose small-business owners have limited access to traditional sources of capital. The loan has an interest rate range from 7.25 to 9.25 percent. To be eligible for the loan program, a business must be located in a low- to moderate-income community or in an Empowerment Zone, Enterprise Community or HUB Zone. The business must be considered a “small business” according to SBA standards or be owned by a veteran. Since its founding in 1994, Accion has made nearly 15,000 loans totaling more than $160 million, including 1,930 loans totaling more than $23.5 million in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Accion now operates in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.

FDI ASSOCIATION NAMES BARRY JOHNSON FIRST CHAIRMAN The FDI Association, the only global organization exclusively for professionals driving foreign direct investment (FDI), appointed Barry Johnson as its first chairman of the board. Johnson leads the inbound investment and global market access advisory practice of 32 Advisors LLC, a New York-based cross-border business advisory firm. Prior to joining 32 Advisors, Johnson served in the Obama Administration in several senior advisory capacities, including as senior adviser for economic development in the U.S. Department of Commerce and as founding executive director of SelectUSA, the first White House initiative to promote and facilitate inward investment. Johnson also represented the United States as vice chairman of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s territorial development policy committee and later the investment policy committee. Other FDI Association board members are: Stephen Moret, Louisiana Economic Development; Craig Hagen, corporate director of government affairs for Electronic Arts; Cathy Rogers, vice president of global opportunities, IBM; Christopher Sanders, executive vice president and head of corporate planning, Leopold KOSTAL GmbH; Claus Longborg, managing director of Copenhagen Capacity; Dato’ Azman Mahmud, CEO of MIDA; Yin Hong, national director and head of manufacturing services China, Jones Lang LaSalle Shanghai; Adreas Dressler, managing director, Terrain; David East, director of business development, fDi Intelligence; and Jim Winter, director, industrial services, Cresa Industrial Services.