Springfield, MO

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Tawnie Wilson | SBJ

A Conversation With ... Casey Pyle

Market Executive and Senior Vice President, Phelps County Bank

Posted online

You started in December with Phelps County Bank after a three-year stint as community president at Simmons Bank. Why did you want to make this transition to lead the bank’s Springfield entry?
I have enjoyed community banking, and this opportunity really is community banking, local decision, local management. My thoughts and the thoughts of our employee owners are heard by management, and that’s just something you get with an organization this size. The bank is 100% employee owned, so every employee has ownership and benefits from the profits of the bank. It drives better customer service, and they financially benefit from the success of their own work versus third-party shareholders.

What’s the latest on the progress of the renovation of the former downtown YMCA into the bank branch?
The building is gutted and environmental remediation is going on right now and will be done in the next couple of weeks. And then the 30,000-foot nonhistoric renovations will be removed, and that’ll eventually become parking. We’re temporarily working out of this space, (334 E. Walnut St.) We’ll have a temporary branch set up by June 1, if not sooner, and offer all of our banking services at that time here in this site until we move into there probably the first quarter of 2026. We’re a little delayed because this building is in an area identified as a Forward SGF catalyst area for future growth downtown, and we have been in negotiations to do some other things with the space that have delayed all of the plans for starting our remodel. We weren’t able to get all the partners on board to make that happen.

Tell me about your approach to talent recruitment ahead of your opening.
The bank chose to come to (Springfield) to expand their (employee stock ownership plan) and the profitability that they can provide for the employee ownership plan. They also like the employment pool in Springfield. I’ve been meeting with acquaintances of mine. The phones have been really ringing off the hook with people interested in the bank coming to town and the employee ownership model, the community bank feel that we offer will be faster and more flexible than some more rigid, larger banks. We’ve hired five and have two more committed – that’s been in the last 90 days. Rolla moved two employees down here when the bank bought the building, so there are eight of us in this space right now and two committed. We’ll probably have 10 more in the next 12 months in this temporary site.

Are there positions that you are struggling to fill?
I wouldn’t say struggling, but it’s been a challenge to get mortgage originators. A lot of mortgage originators, like almost entirely in this market, are commissioned. That is really good for them when the market is good. Our desire is to salary all positions that are loan officers, including mortgage originators. That’s one reason I’ve had a challenge is that our pay is unconventional for the Springfield market. So, maybe they won’t cap out really high earnings when years are great, but also the earnings are better for them now.

What’s your total employee count that you’re looking to have once your permanent branch is up and running?
I’ll say 40 is the number for this building in the next three years. We’ve also been looking at other facilities in Springfield for a second location, so that’s flexible. If we acquire an existing branch facility that a bank has vacated, whether it’s in Springfield or Christian County, that could expand.

Phelps County is joining 37 banks in the Springfield metro area with roughly $15.5 billion in local deposits, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Do you have a sense of what percentage of the market share you are after or what types of customers?
Not necessarily a goal market share that we expect to attain, but we will be able to get our fair share of business with our hires that we’re getting. We’re getting people that are good calling officers, we’re getting very diverse backgrounds. We offer free commercial and business checking accounts, which is something competitors rarely offer. We have one of the lowest cost of funds of any bank in the state, so we can price loans accordingly and affect our profits by gathering low-cost deposits.

Is a community banking model at a disadvantage when it comes to technological advancements?
Technology is expensive, so that is a challenge. But something interesting about Phelps County Bank is the intelligence of the staff that we currently have in Rolla. A lot of people came out of Missouri S&T with engineering backgrounds and degrees, and they have developed a lot of their own processes utilizing Microsoft products to workflow things cheaply and efficiently. It hasn’t been a disadvantage.


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