Magazine article American Banker

Minority Banker Form North Makes a Good Thing of Failed Alabama S&L

Magazine article American Banker

Minority Banker Form North Makes a Good Thing of Failed Alabama S&L

Article excerpt

Tuskegee, a central Alabama town of 12,000 about 15 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart, is hardly the place most bankers would look to buy a failed savings and loan.

The average personal income of residents in the town - best known for its African-American college of the same name - is half the national average.

"This is not an area other banks are looking to come to," said James W. Wright, president and chief executive of First Tuskegee Bank. "There is not enough growth here."

But Mr. Wright, who bought century-old Tuskegee Savings and Loan Association (founded by Booker T. Washington) from the Resolution Trust Corp. in 1991, has built it into the top-performing minority-owned community bank in the country.

In the last five years, $52 million-asset First Tuskegee Bank, which now has a state bank charter, posted an average return on assets of 2.44% and return on equity of 28.30%.

Mr. Wright previously had been president and chief executive of Beneficial National Bank, the consumer finance subsidiary of Wilmington, Del.-based Beneficial Corp. Two of the Tuskegee bank's officers also came from Beneficial.

Mr. Wright said tax credits that were meant to help failed thrifts in predominantly minority areas remain minority-owned had helped attract him to Tuskegee, where 98% of the population is African-American, he said.

The bank offers a variety of savings and checking accounts, mortgages, and auto loans, but customers said its most important facet is a desire to serve residents.

"When I first moved here, people told me that's the place to keep your money," said Lula Bridges, director of the Macon County Chamber of Commerce.

In the last five years, the bank has nearly doubled its assets, aided by deposits of public funds from Tuskegee University and Alabama State University, two county governments, and local school districts. …

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