The First Southern story began in 1982 when Jess Correll, then 26 years old and living in Somerset, Kentucky, met Randy Attkisson. Randy was offering bank consulting services after a stint as State Banking Commissioner. Jess sought Randy’s advice about how to buy a bank in Stanford, Kentucky. In a rather unorthodox strategy, Jess and Randy went door-to-door meeting with shareholders until they had private agreements to buy over 50% of the stock. With a cash down payment of $800 and a guarantee from family members, Jess got a loan to close the purchase of Lincoln County National Bank in 1983.
Over the next eight years, we were able to find and acquire other community banks, including:
- First State Bank of Wayne County in 1985
- National Bank of Lancaster in 1986
- Peoples Bank of Paint Lick in 1989
- National Bank of Hustonville in 1990
The total assets of these five community banks were $154 million at the end of 1990. The consolidated capital was $6 million and acquisition debt was $9 million.
From this mix of community banks, and an original bank charter from Lancaster dating to 1865, First Southern Bancorp was formed. Original Board Members were Jess Correll, Randy Attkisson, Ward Correll, Vince Correll, David Downey, Doug Ditto, John Ball and Jimmy Rousey.
In the late fall of 1990, we bid on a group of bank quality commercial real estate loans offered by the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) from a failed savings and loan in Norfolk, Virginia. We were the successful bidder on loans totaling approximately $6 million. Over the next several months, we had more success in purchasing performing loans at substantial discounts. A separate division was formed in our holding company to acquire low risk, high return commercial real estate loans and properties from the RTC and large institutional lenders.
In the early 1990s, we pursued a new growth strategy and began to start new banks in strategic locations. We entered the Nicholasville market in 1991, Lexington in 1992, Richmond in 1996, and Somerset in 1997. Also in 1996 we acquired Lincoln Federal Savings and Loan in Stanford, growing our presence in Lincoln County.
It was also in the early 90s that we experienced a dramatic shift in course due to our exposure to Crown Financial Ministries. Jess, Randy, Doug, John and Jimmy went through a Crown small group bible study for the first time, learning the Biblical perspective of money and possessions. The impact of that study completely changed how we operate this company and also our personal view of stewardship.
We began to tithe our corporate earnings and starting in 1991, 10% of our after tax net income went to the River Foundation, a private foundation we established for just this purpose. In 1996 we increased our giving to the River Foundation and other charities to 10% of pre-tax, rather than after-tax net income.
The Crown study also convinced us of the wisdom of being debt free. With earnings from the loans we purchased from the RTC and the performance of our community banks, we retired our debt in 1994. We resolved to remain a low debt company and to only make acquisitions we can fully fund in three years or less.
The mid 90’s was also when we began offering “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” training to each employee. This three-day workshop is an investment in the lives of our team members – helping provide tools and exercises for keeping balance in their personal and professional lives. Since 1994, more than 225 First Southern team members have completed the training.
In 1998 we acquired a substantial interest in a publicly-traded life insurance company headquartered in Springfield, Illinois - United Trust Group (UTG). With the acquisition and merger of another life company, ACAP, based in Houston, Texas early in 2007, UTG has total statutory assets of approximately $400 million.
Our Web site, www.fsnb.net, was launched in 1999, and we expanded our service offerings to include online banking.
In February, 2003, First Southern acquired South Central Bancshares, a $300 million bank holding company with strong community banks in Russellville, Princeton and Wickliffe. In 2005, the names of Citizens National Bank in Russellville, First Bank and Trust in Princeton and Citizens State Bank in Wickliffe, Barlow and Kevil were officially changed to First Southern National Bank.
After more than 20 years in operation, we felt the calling to formalize the purpose and values that guide our thinking. During 2006 we spent a great deal of time collecting ideas and input from every First Southern Team Member. From the information we collected came a strategic plan, as well as a firm grasp on our purpose, our mission and our core values, which continue to guide our decision making and define who we are and what we stand for.
Our passion for building a great company has never been stronger. We recognize that we have been given an opportunity to use our example, our influence and our resources to help others make wise financial decisions, and our desire is to do just that.
We continue to refine our strategies to fit an ever-evolving industry, while holding true to our small town roots. Our home office is still in Stanford, population 3,000. Regardless of the never-ending potential for change and growth within our industry, our company and our communities, we vow to never forget where we came from.