John J. D’Angelo
President and Chief Executive Officer
Interview conducted by:
Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive
CEOCFO: Mr. D’Angelo, Investar Bank is headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Is that where the bank got its start? Would you give us a little background and history of the bank?
Mr. D’Angelo: We started the bank almost seventeen years ago in Baton Rouge. When we started, we were in a trailer, and through hard work and commitment, we have grown into the bank we are today.
The impetus of the bank was that I became frustrated with the company I was working for seventeen years ago, and I did not like how they treated people, so I went home and told my wife that I was going to quit my job. She asked me what I was going to do, and I told her, “We are going to start a bank.” She asked what that meant for us, and I said, “We are going to live on our savings for the next twelve months as we put this thing together, and at the end of twelve months, we are going to take everything we have left in our savings and invest in this new bank.”
I felt we could create a company that would treat employees with great respect. I wanted to build an organization where people would like to be a part of an environment with a culture that would separate us from other companies.
CEOCFO: Would you give us a little background and whether you are from a banking history?
Mr. D’Angelo: I have a BS in accounting from Louisiana State University. Out of school, I went to work for KPMG, a national accounting firm. I was there for four years, primarily in the audit area. I audited banks and oil & gas companies, but I really liked the banks. So, when I left KPMG, I went to Hibernia National Bank for ten years in various positions. I was on the loan review side and the lending side in private banking and real estate. I was on the management side, where I managed several departments. Then I left to work for a national mortgage company, and it was there that I decided to leave and start Investar Bank.
CEOCFO: You chartered the bank in 2006 as a commercial bank. Is that still your focus today or is there more of a mix of business and consumer customers?
Mr. D’Angelo: Our focus remains consistent with what it was in 2006. Our goal has always been to be a community bank and assist our clients in all our markets. The bank has primarily grown organically through de novo branching; however, since we started the bank in 2006, we have executed seven mergers with banks in Louisiana, Texas and Alabama.
We wanted to get into Texas from the day we started the bank. The reason is that the multiples on valuation for the Texas banks are higher, and the market is bigger, so there is a lot of growth potential.
CEOCFO: You were charted as a de novo. With banks in Louisiana, Alabama and Texas, you have seen quite a bit of growth over the years. How many acquisitions have you done since you started?
Mr. D’Angelo: We have executed seven acquisitions since we started the bank and are pretty good at it. We have primarily acquired smaller banks of $300 million and under. Some people refer to that as small-
CEOCFO: Is branding important to you. Does each branch or location have the same look and feel?
Mr. D’Angelo: Branding is essential to us. It goes beyond what companies typically consider -
A consistent theme would be that I love giving back to people; I love giving back to the communities we serve. I have always wanted us to create an environment here at the bank and elsewhere where people would want to come every morning and be a part of it. If you allow me to say humbly, we have accomplished that.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your role today as President and CEO? Are you still involved in the day-
Mr. D’Angelo: As you can imagine, my work role has changed over the years. In the early years, I did everything, up to and including taking the trash out and sweeping the floors. Today I have an unbelievable team of people who perform the day-
CEOCFO: Investar Bank is traded on the Nasdaq, ticker symbol ISTR, and the last I checked trading at $19.52. Do you spend a great deal of time attending investor conferences? Is attracting investors important to Investar today?
Mr. D’Angelo: On an annual basis, I attend approximately four to five conferences a year. In addition, we conduct earnings calls each quarter with analysts and investors. Investor retention and acquisition are always important for a publicly-
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your name, Investar. Who thought of it and what is the significance?
Mr. D’Angelo: We have always believed in giving back, which is a consistent theme from us to our employees, the communities which we serve, nonprofit organizations, and public constituencies. We thought of that as investing in others; thus, that is the INVEST prefix. The star was centered around the hope of creating a company that others would consider different.
The secondary reason was that we had aspirations to move into Texas; as I mentioned, we are now in Houston and Dickerson, which is toward Galveston. It all fell into place, and we felt it fit nicely together.
CEOCFO: Has there been any significant changes to your team over the past few years?
Mr. D’Angelo: We are continually evolving and looking for ways to serve our customers better and improve our operations. One thing I am proud of is that when we have an open or a new position, we look at our talent and knowledgeable staff first and foremost.
In 2021, Linda M. Crochet assumed the role of Chief Operating Officer. Linda is a seasoned banker with extensive experience and served as our Baton Rouge market portfolio president before becoming COO. In July of that same year, we appointed Jeffrey W. Martin as our Chief Credit Officer and Ana Rupnik as our Chief Risk Officer. Linda and Jeff worked at large organizations before coming to Investar, Linda from Capital One, and Jeff from Regions.
I keep referring to large company experience between Linda and Jeff, and that is because we aspire to become a much larger organization. We felt the need to have seasoned, experienced executives in the C-
Our bench at Investar is very strong. Jeff, Linda and Ana are great examples of internal employees who were waiting for the opportunity and ready to jump in and run with it when it arose. They have done an incredible job.
CEOCFO: In January of 2023, Investar also welcomed John Campbell as your new Chief Financial Officer. Would you tell us about him and why he was a good fit for the bank?
Mr. D’Angelo: John Campbell is our new chief financial officer, and I will put him in the same boat as Jeff and Linda. At Investar, the CFO position is extremely important. The board and I felt that we needed someone with technical skills and a person who would fit into our culture. John brought to the table prior banking experience and a big company mentality with a wealth of knowledge and financial experience.
I have watched John’s career since it began many years ago. We had the pleasure of briefly working together at Hibernia National bank in the early 1990s. I knew and understood his character and work ethic. The board, other executives, and I felt he was a perfect fit for our culture.
I am having more fun with this company right now than when we started it, which was a really fun time. I am sort of back there again with all the new seasoned, mature people that can have input in these roles.
CEOCFO: In September of 2022 you also welcomed Richard L. Beaugh as your Corporate Marketing and Communications Director. What was it about Mr. Beaugh that made him the right person to advance the messaging for the bank?
Mr. D’Angelo: What attracted us to Richard is his experience and strategic knowledge of both marketing and communication. Richard previously worked for several diverse companies in which communication was paramount to his role. In addition, he worked at an advertising agency on the marketing side, giving him a broad thought process and perspective on those activities. Richard is seasoned and mature, and like the others, I mentioned earlier, he fits well into our culture.
CEOCFO: What is their role of your marketing and communications team? Is it community relations messaging, helping pitching your products and loan offering or a mix?
Mr. D’Angelo: It is all of the above and then some. The marketing and communications office is responsible for telling our story and connecting with our customers in whatever way that calls for. Every time we put something out there, it tells an Investar story. Whether it is the products we have, the service we provide, or the relationships we build, it is all part of who we are, and our marketing and communications team plays a vital role in communicating that.
CEOCFO: You have some social media page. What do you use those for?
Mr. D’Angelo: Social media is important in today’s culture. It is where people connect and have conversations. We want Investar to be in those conversations. We use our social media pages to tell our story. It might be promoting specific products or services like CD rate promotions or showcasing our employees representing Investar through the community service events we participate in.
Our goal is to align a consistent message to the communities in which we serve. It goes back to the Investar brand that Investar experience I discussed earlier.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the communities that you serve. Are they more rural or urban? What changes have you seen over the past two years?
Mr. D’Angelo: Our branches are in both rural and urban markets. Initially, we were primarily in urban locations. However, through acquisitions, we merged with banks that were more rural in nature. Over the years, we learned that there are different expectations between the rural and urban markets, and we have bridged that gap by remaining consistent with the community bank approach.
Customers want a relationship with their bank. No matter what we do, we believe that to be the most important thing we can offer our customers.
CEOCFO: You offer real estate loans, equipment loans, vehicle loans and agriculture loans. Which of the different industries that you serve provides the greatest revenue potential for your bank today?
Mr. D’Angelo: We believe in our entire product set, but the most significant revenue potential is in our Commercial & Industrial (C&I) segment. These customers have lending needs and are heavy depositors, and in today’s environment, this mix provides the greatest potential for profitability.
CEOCFO: Where will future growth come from, new products, new locations, acquisitions; all of the above?
Mr. D’Angelo: I think our future growth will come from everything you mentioned above. Over the past year, we have focused on enhancing our product delivery channels. This includes technology, a more digital and streamlined approach for the business. If we get that part right, everything else will fall into place. The world has gone digital, and Investar banking is no different.
CEOCFO: In closing, what sets Investar Bank apart from other local banks and why are you important to the fabric of the community?
Mr. D’Angelo: A sense of commitment to the community and service is at the heart of Investar Bank’s mission. Staying connected to customers and the causes that impact our communities remain a priority even as we grow and expand across the Southeast.
In 2022 alone, Investar committed more than $250,000 to 140 local organizations across its communities. From education and the arts to medical development and research, the bank supports local groups with resources to help improve and better serve their communities. Through our in-
Last year in 2022, Investar employees logged nearly 500 volunteer hours with 55 local stations, embracing the institution’s call and commitment to service. It is all about relationships, and our mission is founded on building relationships that create value and opportunities for our customers in their communities.
Investar Bank | NASDAQ: ISTR | John J. D’Angelo | Texas Banks | Louisiana Banks | Alabama Banks | Even as they Continued Strong Growth Over the Years Across the Southeast, Investar Bank has Never Lost that Community Bank Feel | CEO Interviews 2023 | Community Banks | Southeast Regional Bank