South Georgia banks and credit unions seeing growth - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

South Georgia banks and credit unions seeing growth

By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - How secure is your bank? Industry reports predict small and midsize banks will be at greater risk if economic woes deepen.

But several locally-owned banks and credit unions in Albany are growing and prospering during the recession.

They say customers are more comfortable dealing with local institutions.

Despite a stark outlook on the national banking picture, DOCO Regional Federal Credit Union says they are growing.

President Barry Heape says "Membership is growing, our deposits are growing. Loans are not growing as much, but we are doing well."

Even during tough times DOCO has been strong enough to start a new lending business called Assurance Mortgage, which is growing, and recently merged with another credit union from Toccoa.

Assurance Mortgage President Jason Robitz said "As we go through a time of crisis like this, people become more grounded and want to deal with face to face."

That customer desire to deal with South Georgians is also helping at Heritage of the South bank.

Heritage Bank Chief Financial Officer Heath Fountain said "We are growing."

Both in number of customers and their deposits. Heritage says South Georgians are putting more of their wealth in local banks and credit unions, so they have more to lend, and lending is coming back.

Fountain said "There has been a lot of mortgage refinancing. We are starting to see commercial customers that had put off plans to do things, expanding, we are starting to see that pick up."

Albany credit unions and banks say they are holding on in tough times because of their history of conservative investments, and more local customers are choosing to bank with them rather than national banks, because of that business model.

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