Fifty years ago, half a dozen Marion County business owners decided to try to organize another local bank in Dunlap to compete with the only other local bank, Sequatchie County Bank, later renamed Mountain Valley Bank.
“We wanted to have a competitive market and when we started organizing the bank we found that a lot of others were doing it too,” recalls Glenn Barker, a retired dairy farmer who helped organize the bank with his brother Flavius and four other local business owners.
In the end, nearly 400 local investors raised the $500,000 needed to capitalize the new bank, originally known as Citizens Bank of Dunlap.
Over the past half century, through half a dozen bank acquisitions and the purchase of several other bank offices in other cities, Citizens Bank has changed its name a few times and become a bank of $1.2 billion in assets with 25 offices across nine Tennessee counties. Citizens Tri-County Bank, which has borne the institution’s name since 1992, is now the 18th largest bank headquartered in Tennessee and one of the largest outside of one of the largest cities. of State.
Despite all its growth, bank officials insist they are working hard to maintain banking relationships and stay focused on smaller towns in eastern and central Tennessee.
“Our niche has remained in rural markets where we feel we can maintain relationships with our customers and meet the needs of the communities where we are located,” said John Barker, CEO of Citizens Tri-County Bank last year. decade. in a phone interview last week. “We’re like the Dollar General bank store. Dollar General has been successful in small towns and rural areas, and so have we.”
Barker insists bank employees have been key to the growth and success of Citizens Tri-County. Despite all the changes in automation and technology in banking, Barker insists that business is still about people.
“Banking is any relationship business,” he said. “It’s like going to a doctor. Once you have a good relationship and you’re still taken care of, you’ll stay with that bank.”
By acquiring other banks, rather than selling to other bidders, Citizens Tri-County has continued to grow and remain an independent community bank, Barker said.
“In today’s environment, to be effective, you need to have scale and size to compete, but you also need to stay focused on customer relationships,” he said.
It’s a lesson Barker learned from his father, Glenn, who previously served as CEO of Citizens Bank for nearly three decades.
Bank at a glance
Last name: Citizens Tri-County Bank (since 1992)
Original organizers: Elmer Studer, H. Glenn Barker, WL Rogers, Flavius Barker, Dr. Charles Graves and Preston Cates.Headquarter: Dunlap, TN
Pitches: 25 offices in nine Tennessee counties
Assets: $1.2 billion
Personal: 284 full-time equivalent employees
CEO: John V. Barker
Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., data as of March 31, 2022
“We are community bankers and always will be,” the elder Barker said during a recent interview at his farm in Sequatchie County, where he worked as a dairy farmer early in his career.
Barker became CEO of Citizens Bank in 1983 after the bank was led initially by Henry Phillips, then by William Broyles, then briefly by LA, Broomfield. When Barker took over, the bank had $7 million in deposits but was operating in a tough economic market, especially in many rural areas of Tennessee hard hit by the decline of textile industries and other manufacturing businesses.
Five other banks within a 50-mile radius were closed in the 1980s, including United Bank of Chattanooga, Bledsoe County Bank, Warren County Bank, First United Bank of Tracy City, and Coalmont Savings Bank.
“We were very lucky to survive the 1980s,” recalls Barker.
But problems at other banks created a buying opportunity for Citizens Bank. Just weeks after becoming CEO, Glenn Barker and Dunlap Bank agreed to buy Bledsoe County Bank when it was shut down by banking regulators.
Citizens Bank became the highest bidder for the assets of Bledsoe County Bank and Dunlap Bank took over the assets of the bankrupt bank of Pikeville in 1984 and changed its name to Citizens Bank of Dunlap and Pikeville.
“For a business to be successful you have to grow and we saw Bledsoe County as a real opportunity to expand our market,” said Glenn Barker.
Further market expansions came as Citizens Bank purchased former bank branches closed in other small towns by Nations Bank, AmSouth and others. In 1992 Citizens Bank acquired Nations Bank branches in three towns in Grundy County – Tracy City, Altamont and Palmer – and the bank’s name was changed to Citizens Tri-County Bank.
Over the past three decades, Citizens Bank has continued to expand by directly acquiring other banks or taking over former bank branches of other banks that had decided not to operate in smaller towns. But even though Citizens Tri-County expanded to nine counties, the name remained Citizens Tri-County Bank.
“It just didn’t seem logical to keep changing the name, so we stuck with Citizens Tri-County (since 1992),” Glenn Barker said.
Citizens Tri-County Bank has opened branches in Marion and Hamilton counties, but John Barker said building new branches in other new markets is not currently on the drawing board. But while other banks continue to prune their branch network, Citizens Tri-County Bank has not closed any of its offices throughout its history.
“Given the right opportunity, we would definitely consider further acquisitions,” John Barker said. “We are very proud of the bank’s slogan, ‘The only community bank you will ever need.’ “
Citizens Tri-County Bank plans to mark the bank’s 50th anniversary with a celebration at 10 a.m. Oct. 8 at Dunlap’s main office, Barker said.
Contact Dave Flessner at [email protected] or 423-757-6340.
1972 – Citizens Bank opens in a trailer at the bank’s current main office location in Dunlap town centre,
1984 – Purchased Bledsoe County Bank in Pikeville, Tennessee and changed the bank’s name to Citizens Bank of Dunlap and Pikeville.
1992 – Acquired the former Bank of Nations offices in Tracy City, Altamont and Palmer and changed the bank’s name to Citizens Tri-County Bank
1995 – Buy an Amsouth Bank office in South Pittsburg.
2002 – Purchased bank branches in Monteagle and Tracy City.
* 2005 – Purchased Cumberland Bank in Warren County
2006 – Acquisition of First National Bank of Tullahoma in Coffee County
2011 – Bought Citizens Bank of Spencer to expand into Van Buren County
2015 – Bought Berkshire Bank in Morrison, Tennessee
2016 – Purchased Franklin County United Bank with branches in Decherd and Cowan
Source: Citizens Tri-County Bank story