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OMB Focused on Growing its Digital and Regional Footprint

Mark Harrington

President & Chief Executive Officer

Old Missouri Bank (OMB)


(417) 869-9000

Interview conducted by:

Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive
CEOCFO Magazine

Published – October 31, 2022

CEOCFO: Mr. Harrington, you founded JamesMark Bancshares, Inc. in 1998, its subsidiary Old Missouri National Bank in 1999. Would you give us a little history of the bank and tell us about your role and how it developed to where you are today as President and CEO?

Mr. Harrington: We started the bank in 1999 and in Springfield, in Southwest Missouri there had been a number of new bank charters in our area mainly due to mergers such as Bank of America buying Boatmen’s Bank, which is a big one in Springfield. That led to a number of bank executives that wanted to be in community banking, so they left those big holding company banks and started their own. I got a chance to work for one of those.

I was with a holding company bank and went to work at a community bank as a new startup and loved the people there, loved the experience and thought it was a good deal for the founders of the bank. I was really intrigued by it. Those few key people that founded that bank, I learned a lot from them. I wanted to do what they had done, I thought it was really cool.

CEOCFO: Did you start off your career thinking it would be in banking?

Mr. Harrington: Actually, I worked in banking at my first job out of college. I worked for a savings and loan here in Springfield. When I was going through college, I was an economics major and there were lots of bank mergers happening, the savings and loan crisis was going on so I had to have the Wall Street Journal subscription as part of my economics study and it was just full of these stories about bank mergers, why they happened and what happened, what happened to customers, and just a lot of details that a finance or economics nerd would have found intriguing. When I graduated, I went from washing cars to searching for a bank job. It took me a while but I did end up with a savings and loan here in Springfield. I did have that idea halfway through college that I thought that was what I wanted to do. A couple times I thought I had made a mistake but it turned out OK now.

CEOCFO: What does “community banking made better” mean for OMB and its customers?

Mr. Harrington: To me it means we are tuned-in to the needs of the customers in our community. I think why we have been able to do as well as we have is we made it our mission to meet those needs. That is pretty much it. We live in the communities that we bank. That is part of how we know the needs of those customers and we know most of them or many of them personally, too. We make it our objective to meet their needs and make their financial lives better which leads to making other things better typically and we are pretty happy about that. So it is knowing what your community needs and making it your mission to give them what they need.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your name?

Mr. Harrington: We are about to change our name to OMB. With the expansion plans we have Missouri does not necessarily fit everything we do. As we push for a more digital or regional footprint, that is what we need to do.

CEOCFO: Blake Miller joined OMB as vice president and controller in 2022. Can you tell us what Blake brings to the table and why he was right for that job. Also, have there been any other significant changes to your team over the past few years?

Mr. Harrington: It is the first time we have had a controller, but he has an extensive background in financial management for large manufacturing companies. He was a financial analyst for them. He moved into community banking just a couple years ago and was a community banker for a smaller community east of Springfield. He has varied experience and it happens to include banking which we like. We talk about “we live here too” in our marketing and he is the mayor of the town he lives in so we thought he would fit the way we look at things.

As we have grown, we have separated jobs that used to be done by just two or three of us. We have added a chief operating officer, chief credit officer and chief marketing officer. As we were new, our then CFO and I did everything essentially so this is just the natural progression. Our CFO that we have right now was doing things that were really more controller type functions as well as what he was doing, and at the rate were growing it became impossible for just a few of us to cover everything. Blake has an accounting degree and a master’s degree. I liked the big company experience that he had and it was outside of banking, it was financial related and I loved that he had that community banking experience and that he was really involved in the community. I think he is a natural fit for us.

CEOCFO: Your marketing team traveled to Denver this year as it won the 2022 Brand Slam award from the American Bankers Association in the website design category. I must say your website is quite impressive. Would you tell us what that award means to you and about the effectiveness of your outreach programs?

Mr. Harrington: As you can imagine I am so proud of what the marketing team got done and I am really proud that it was recognized by our major trade association, the ABA. That is a big one. Our website is the face of our bank to many of our customers. It is the face even more probably to our prospects. When you think about it in today’s world it is our digital branch, so for many people that is going to be their first impression of OMB. Even people from my generation, I start with a website at most so it is really important.

I have heard so many people out of the blue and unsolicited talk about our website. Our marketing team is doing an awesome job and pushing that look into all of our internal communications as well so we have a very consistent brand. Hopefully when you see our internal communications, the things we put out into the community, the advertising we do, you will think of our branch, and when you think of our advertising and when you get to our digital branch and our website, I hope you say “oh yeah, I saw their building and their sign.” That is our digital branch and it is becoming more and more important.

CEOCFO: You have social pages like Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter and Youtube. What do you use those for?

Mr. Harrington: This is what our marketing team would say, and it makes sense, which is that they humanize our community banking experience. When you look at it, it is first the people and the places. We kind of showcase the town, the people in our town, the nonprofits. We focus in on all the things we do that make our communities better.

We also use it for marketing, although that is somewhat secondary for us. We are not really product focused on social media. We are people and community focused, so we believe in that. If we are running a good special on a deposit product or home loan or something, we are going to let people know because it is good for the communities and good for our bank, too. We lead with people on that part of it but there is also going to be a marketing component.

CEOCFO: You have branches in Buffalo, Springfield, Walnut Grove, Ash Grove, Mt. Vernon and Carthage. 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. Harrington: We have rural and urban. We have three banks in Springfield which is urban, I think our metropolitan statistical area is in the 500,000 range. Springfield is a county seat and so are Buffalo, Mt. Vernon and Carthage. Those towns range from 5,000 to about 15,000 in population. We have seen steady growth in Springfield and in our other communities it is steady but modest growth, so it is a combination of rural and urban. The majority of our banking assets have been accumulated in Springfield just based on its size. We like those outlying communities, they fit our customer demographic, that agricultural piece especially. Outside of Springfield there are just nice rural communities.

We also added the banks in Ash Grove and Walnut Grove. Walnut Grove was a drive-through branch. We acquired those when we bought the Bank of Ash Grove. We also purchased the branch in Buffalo from Great Southern Bank and then the others were de novo. Like I said, the Buffalo, Mt. Vernon and Carthage branches are in county seats and Buffalo really fit a group of customers we already had existing in that area. In Mt. Vernon and Carthage, we had a chance just to hire good people that we knew and started our branches there.

CEOCFO: In the loans segment of your website it says, “From Home to Farm and Everything In Between.” Why is that a winning formula for OMB?

Mr. Harrington: I started as an agricultural lender and then I really got into banking. Ag lending helped us get a start. At the beginning, 50% of our loans might have been agricultural loans and that number is probably between 30% and 40% now. The Federal Reserve I believe considers anything over either 25% or 30% to be an ag bank, so we have that ag specialty. The rest of it is a lot of commercial business.

We say “home to farm” because we do a lot of home lending as well. I think we throw that out there mainly because farm or agricultural lending is something that not just everyone does, so we like to let people know that we do that. Of course, we do all the other traditional banking, but the agricultural lending is kind of a niche that we have that has been good for us and good for the community.

We have a team of really good agricultural lenders and most of them are still involved in running cattle and doing some farming on the side with their other jobs. Perhaps more than other industries, they really appreciate when someone understands their business.

CEOCFO: Which of the different industries that you serve provides the greatest revenue potential for your bank today?

Mr. Harrington: Agricultural is one of them of course and the other is real estate. Those are often larger loans that move the needle through the bank. That is mainly in our Springfield market. Commercial real estate whether it is owner-occupied real estate or non-owner occupied such as thrift centers, multi-family, and office buildings, are the biggest components of revenue for us.

For us especially in the agricultural piece, we have a fair amount in Missouri, Arkansas, some Kansas and some Oklahoma. When we get further away from our home base those typically are loans we do through a farm service agency or the FDA guaranteed programs, but our guys are really good at those and are finding opportunities. In Kansas particularly right now, some of the banks out there are not as familiar with the types of lending we do. We have someone in Kansas that is operating essentially from a laptop and pick-up truck. We cover a lot of territory on the ag lending part.

CEOCFO: In the business segment of your website it says, “Business Banking Done Better Than Anyone.” What differentiates OMB?

Mr. Harrington: Extremely fast decisions. We have high-touch service. I am going to use our phrase “we live here, too.” We can give much faster decisions and service because we already know a lot of the people or they have been referred to us by people we have taken good care of or we have been referred to them by people. Our bankers and customers know each other and they know each other’s neighbors. I think what is valuable to people whether they are making a decision on buying a pen of cattle or they want to extend the feedlot or whether they are trying to be the first bid in on buying a piece of commercial property, knowing each other and getting that fast answer is probably about as important as anything we can do.

CEOCFO: Are you more of a business/commercial bank than a consumer bank? What is the mix and would you like to see that change?

Mr. Harrington: We are much more a business or commercial bank than consumer. Our consumer banking opportunities will come to us as the retail or consumer needs of our commercial customers and their families and employees. Personal loans, home equities, vehicle loans etcetera, there are a lot of national competitors on those, credit card companies and capital finance companies. For us it is usually people that we already know, so I would not mind expanding that but it is probably not on our immediate horizon.

We have really grown our mortgage department so as far as consumer mortgage we just added a team of about eight people there. We definitely want to and have already expanded the mortgage piece of things. As far as the credit card and personal loans, that for the foreseeable future continues to be taking care of the needs of those business and farm customers.

CEOCFO: You completed a branch remodeling project in Ash Grove this year. What was the reason for the remodeling? Is branding important when it comes to your branches? Can someone recognize an OMB from its exterior or interior?

Mr. Harrington: That is a bank we acquired about seven years ago. It was built in 1979 so it has had some main issues taken care of on the outside. We had remodeled the interior, so this made it a good time to refresh the exterior and make it look like what our newer banks look like. You can tell it is an OMB, most of our banks you can tell that they are one of ours. The new one in Springfield, you can tell from signage at a glance, but the building was a previous bank building, so it is not there yet.

Yes, it is part of our branding to be consistent. We have picked up three banks by acquisition and we now have two of those three where you can tell they are OMB banks. The full branch acquisition we made went from a modular into an OMB bank. That is important. You take an opportunity when you can, and then you have to get around to remodeling and branding when you have time to do it. We want to be branded so that people know it is us.

CEOCFO: You have many years of experience in banking, what have you learned that will help you continue to grow your footprint and meet your sales objectives?

Mr. Harrington: As the bank has gotten larger and more successful, and easier to do, is to hire non-bankers. When you are small and growing and you have to watch the expenses, you need to hire people that have been in the business, people that do not need a lot of training and can hit the ground running. We have been able to grow lately because we have added non-bankers. It is like a football team taking the best available athlete even if that is not the right position. We have hired based on connections, standing in the community, which has opened a lot of doors for people and has led to a lot of business. I have learned that culture is very important. When we first started it was all about let’s make our numbers. I probably did not pay enough attention to the culture piece. One of our non-bank hires recognized how important culture was, plus we are getting bigger and have more time to focus on it.

As we focused on the culture, StrengthsFinder helped us help each other identify the things we are best at and how we can make those things work and improve our communication with each other. Over some period of time our culture has gotten to where I really like it. As that culture was built, it has made us able to attract lots and lots of new talent and a lot of that is banking talent, skilled lenders with books of business that they can bring to us. So much of it is just word-of-mouth and referral, people that are aware of our bank because of our marketing. We are a good place to work because we are intentionally focused on culture. We have picked up a lot of good people lately and a number of those have asked their friends to pick the phone up and ask if they are interested and talking to them. That has over the last three years really got us a lot of momentum.

You can have lots of banking experience but focusing in on that people experience and that relationship and culture piece is something I did not think of early on. I was so numbers driven and strictly bottom line but I got there faster by being a little less numbers focused. I say it all the time that happy teammates mean happy customers, and happy customers mean increased business, referral and repeat business, increased business means happy shareholders and that means happy CEO. It really struck me lately how important that was and I was missing that in the early part of my career.

CEOCFO: You really seem to encourage your customers to save, which is unusual today.

Mr. Harrington: Having a firm financial footing leads to a happier life. If you know you have money put aside for unexpected expenses or for unexpected loss of income, it is comforting. If you do not have to live week-to-week just hoping nothing goes wrong, it is a stressful situation. People have always lived in that and always will but we would like to help as much as we can. Most of us that were young and did not have anything, know the sense of security that comes when you know you can make the next mortgage payment even if something goes wrong. Just modest amounts of savings can give you comfort that gives you a happier life. Once you got some momentum going there, you start realizing that saving money and watching a savings account grow is more satisfying than buying this or that or doing this or that. You are happier because you know you have that financial security even if that means you did not get whatever new object that you wanted. We just know it makes people happier if you do not have to worry about your debts or unexpected circumstances.

CEOCFO: How is the bank funded? Do you have shareholders, investors, if so, how many and are you looking to grow that number?

Mr. Harrington: Our holding company is owned by a group of mostly local investors, the ones that are not local are ones that wanted to move off and maintain their investments in the bank. Initially we had 35 and that number has grown. I do not typically disclose how many we have. It is a local group and it is pretty widely dispersed ownership. There is nothing close to a controlling interest in a group or family.

Our capital needs have been met either through retained earnings or selling additional stock. We have issued some debt that we inject in the bank and we have added additional capital over the past two years to support growth. Existing shareholders supply a significant amount of that. At certain times we would take on new investors, but for the most part our local group has supplied the capital we need to grow. We have plenty of capital. We have issued some debt late last year with the idea that we thought we would have some good growth opportunities.

Our capital ratios are good, we still have some dry powder as needed. What you like to do over the long-run is to have the right profitability and growth mix where you can increase capital and fund your own loss provision out of your own earnings. However, if you have growth opportunities by acquisition or organic growth, you take the growth opportunities as they come and sometimes that necessitates that in capital.

CEOCFO: In closing, where will future growth come from for OMB?

Mr. Harrington: We have been fortunate with our organic growth and I think that will continue. Higher rates might slow that down temporarily but I think our bank will attract good bankers that will help our bank to grow. We have made an acquisition, actually we have done one whole bank acquisition and one branch acquisition. We will look for those as opportunities present themselves. We actively look for those. We will look for other markets, too. The markets we got into have been opportunistic. We were not saying we wanted to be in this market or that market with a couple of those, but because of mergers that took out existing community banks, we had opportunities to expand and serve a need in those communities. We knew it would be good for the community, good for us and good for the new teammates we took on.

I think organic growth, attraction of talent, potential acquisitions, and just looking for new markets where we see opportunities to add a team or serve a community because perhaps a bank has pulled out of that community, those are where growth will come from. We project growth of 10% to 15% per year. We have done more than that the last year or two but we are optimistic that we can stay at 10% to 15% annual growth rates and do it the right way. We will build a robust online presence that will probably help us drive deposit growth and then turn into more opportunities to do lending in our community. There is the digital piece of that, too. We are just scratching the surface with that.

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“You can have lots of banking experience but focusing in on that people experience and that relationship and culture piece is something I did not think of early on. I was so numbers driven and strictly bottom line but I got there faster by being a little less numbers focused.”
Mark Harrington