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About 50 bankers gather in Statesboro for bank symposium

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Posted: March 25, 2008 3:50 p.m.
Updated: April 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.
    About 50 bankers and financial professionals from southeast Georgia converged on Forest Heights County Club last week to attend the Community Bank Symposium.
    Sponsored by Georgia Southern University’s College of Business Administration and the Center for Excellence in Financial Services, the goal of the gathering was to discuss current local, state and national trends in finance for community banks.
    The event was organized by director of the Center for Excellence Ed Sibbald, who is also the BB&T Executive in Residence in Banking and serves as a lecturer in the Department of Finance & Quantitative Analysis. He said there were nine chief executive officers, eight chief financial officers and other officials representing 23 different banks from the area.
    “We’re satisfied with the turnout,” said Sibbald. “The people really enjoyed it.”
    Sibbald and his graduate assistant, Dennis Dozier, put together an evaluation book for each bank in the region that attended. It is filled with performance reviews, risk profiles and each bank’s share of the market.
    “Each book is an assessment of the bank compared to other community banks in Georgia of a similar size and asset level,” said Sibbald. “This is the reason many of the banks come.”
    William Wells, CBA department chair and associate professor of finance, said the assessment of the banks performed by Sibbald helps both the banks and the customers that rely on them.
    “Ed is developing quite a reputation in the area,” said Wells. “They get a quality, independent assessment of their bank, in relation to other community banks and the overall banking environment in Georgia, which they find very valuable.”
    First Southern CEO Tommy David attended the symposium and said the research is particularly useful for local banks.
    “It’s especially helpful for a community bank. We just don’t have the research staff to do this kind of research,” said David. “So the service that GSU and the Center provides is invaluable to us.”
    David said he and other bank leaders appreciate the 35 years of experience Sibbald has in community banking.
    “We like that the head of the center (Sibbald) has been in the real world, so he knows the kind of information that we need,” said David. “He also brings in expert speakers (to the symposium) to share their knowledge with us.”
    David says he also hires the GSU business school to perform sales and marketing research for First Southern. It’s a partnership that helps both parties. The university receives funds it can spend in its department. The students get valuable experience and get to focus on the end result with a real world product. The community banks get analysis from a seasoned veteran they would not have been able to generate themselves.
    Steve Powell, a financial institutions specialist, delivered one of the more disturbing presentations of the morning centered around Georgia’s real estate market. Atlanta currently has 10.7 months worth of housing inventory, while most of the counties around Statesboro and Savannah have more than nine month’s supply.
    Even more troubling for smaller banks, which typically are major investors in local developments projects, is the rising inventory of developable lots. Many counties around Statesboro have two to three years worth of inventory while Effingham County currently has one of the highest inventories, standing at 159 months. At the highest rate of construction in the past 10 years, it would take over five years to use up all that inventory. With these statistics, he said community banks are looking for alternative places to invest their funds.
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