Heritage Banks continue growth - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Heritage Banks continue growth

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –  Bank failures and foreclosures keep mounting, but a south Georgia bank is bucking the trend and growing during tough times.

Last year more than 130 U. S. banks failed. In January there were 15 more, including two in Georgia.

Thursday HeritageBank of the South announced they'll purchase five Park Avenue Bank Branches. HeritageBank officials say its success is a matter of keeping down the number of non performing loans, and at the five bank branches they've just acquired they've done just that.

HeritageBank of the South is buying five Park Avenue Bank branches. They continue to grow by leaps and bounds, while others have failed, so what's their secret? It may be location. 20:31:11 Heath

"Big drops in real estate values and of course those were proceeded by big run ups in real estate values, and most of the markets we're in didn't have the run ups so were seeing less credit problems," said Heath Fountain, HeritageBank CFO/Senior V.P.

The sale will result in the transfer of $52 million in loans and $72 million in deposits, and they've been careful what they've acquired.

"When we acquire new banks we're allowed to go in there and do a due diligence on their books, it allows us to see the loans, see what kind of loans they make and what collateral they use, and by doing this we are very secure and sure of the loans that we are purchasing," said HeritageBank Marketing Director Mary Beth Hobby.

Less secure loans are not purchased. Heritage's low non-performing loan rate of two percent has been a benefit to the bank. "A lot of banks have non performing loans that are getting up to seven, eight, ten percent of their assets, so ten percent of their loans and that's just a high high number," said Fountain.

Heritage's two percent is a lot higher than they'd like it to be, but they have what they believe is a fair policy when it comes to lending. "The lending practices are very stringent, in terms they look for collateral, cash flow, these other areas to make sure that a person has the ability to repay the loan," said Hobby.

Keeping the investments they have in Albany secure, while continuing to grow and add new assets in the future.

HeritageBank plans to keep all 43 employees at the five bank branches. They say the deal is expected to be completed in May, and that's when customers will begin to receive information on the changeover.  HeritageBank will add those new branches in Statesboro, Baxley, Hazlehurst, and Adel.

The Bank says it helps fill in the footprint created when they bought the Tattnall Bank in December. This fall HeritageBank will have as many as 16 location with the new branch being built in Leesburg.

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