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|Franklin State Bank celebrates 100th anniversary|
An interview with president Bill Walker
William "Bill" Walker has been president of Franklin State Bank for the past 25 years. Walker said he's been asked many questions during that time – about trends in the economy to changes in the banking industry.
Walker took the time to write down some of these questions and his
answers to them, and shares them here with Franklin Sun readers.
What is the role of Franklin State Bank in the community?
"I view our organization as an active corporate citizen of our community and a promoter of Franklin Parish. We are not a business which sits back and benefits from the local economy and gives little back. We view ourselves as a business partner of our community, and as such we have responsibilities to promote the community ... through lending, through supporting local economic projects and through supporting civic activities.
On a business basis, we are a progressive, independent bank which distinguishes itself in our market through delivering personal service. If you call our bank, you don't go though a litany of computerized questions to have your call routed. You are not transferred to someones voice mail. We still believe in providing convenience to the customer. We still believe in accommodating the customer."
When were the toughest economic times at the bank?
"The mid '80s. We experienced a combination of economic woes in Louisiana at that time. Both the agriculture industry and the oil and gas industry fell upon tough times. The effect on Franklin Parish was dire. Land prices dropped to the point where many farmers lost all equity. The overall effect was like a snowball. The problems just kept growing. Local businesses who had always been supported by the farm economy were in trouble. To make matters worse, Franklin Parish had hundreds of residents employed in the oil fields. These jobs also dried up. It was a period of belt-tightening for everyone in our parish."
What is the biggest change in banking over the years?
"Two things readily come to mind. First, the speed with which new technology has been rolled out has changed banking. Banking technology has gone from Model Ts to jet airplanes in the past ten years. With the advent of Internet banking, telephone banking, electronic debit cards, check imagine and character recognition intelligence on check capturing, the face of banking has changed drastically. I'm not sure that it has all been for the best, but it has been exciting to watch and be a part of.
The second big change in banking has been the customer's expectation of banking services. You can forget the 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. delivery methods employed by banks for years. Our customers now want access to their accounts and banking information every day, all day. They want the best products at the best price and they want them at their convenience. Banking customers are now in a position to demand excellent service and get it. If you are not willing to listen to your customers, someone else will."
What do you like least about banking?
"The proliferation of banking regulations. The imposing of banking regulations on the banking industry over the past five years has been overwhelming. As bankers, we now spend more time on regulatory compliance issues than we do on banking. It has reached the point where the regulations are so invasive and extensive, they serve to hinder the service which we are able to deliver to our customers ... and I see no end in sight."
How do you see the 100th anniversary?
"We view our anniversary not so much as a celebration of this bank, but as a celebration of our community. The success which we have had over the past 100 years, is directly attributable to this community, to this market and to our customers. We thank them. We do owe a debt of gratitude to our founding directors, who in 1908, had the foresight and the energy to charter the Franklin State Bank. I thank Dr. C. L. Ramage, Fred N. Scott, W.B. Grayson, Louis Lowentritt, Caleb H. Snyder, A.D.O. Moore, Seth Hathewick and especially T. B. Gilbert Sr., who was the driving force behind the formation of the bank. I think that the founders would be surprised at the outcome of their venture. I would hope that they would be pleased."
How do you see the economic future of Franklin Parish?
"Well, the bad new is, Franklin Parish is totally dependent upon agriculture to support its economy. The good news is, Franklin Parish has agriculture to support its local economy. Agriculture is a natural, renewable resource, which in my thinking is an excellent economic base to support our community. One of my favorite quotes is by William Jennings Bryan, 'Burn down our cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.' I believe this is true, and largely, I think that Congress believes this to be true. I see agriculture always being supported on a national level. I see agriculture sustaining our community in the future."
What future do you see for the Franklin State Bank?
"As I look to the future, I feel that the Franklin State Bank can maintain its current independent operation for the benefit of our community. I think there will always be a place in the market for local community banks, and I feel that community banks can compete with large banks and other commercial providers of financial services. I see no reason why some future Franklin State bankers will not be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the bank."