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President Gary E. Metzger, Executive Vice President Garry Robinson and Chief Operating Officer and Counsel Blake Thomas
President Gary E. Metzger, Executive Vice President Garry Robinson and Chief Operating Officer and Counsel Blake Thomas

Bishops Finalist: Liberty Bank

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Liberty Bank has 19 locations and more than $1 billion in assets, a far cry from its 1995 start in a converted mobile home.

“When you start in a single-wide trailer it keeps your plane flying low. It keeps us rooted to the Springfield community and the other communities we do business with here in southwest Missouri,” says Blake Thomas, Liberty Bank chief operating officer and counsel.

“We’ve seen success; we’ve seen failure, just like our customers have. But we’re here. When you’re based in a skyscraper in New York, it’s different. We know where we came from,” Thomas adds.

Liberty Bank CEO and President Gary Metzger says from the beginning, the bank has been committed to developing lasting partnerships with entrepreneurs.

“Our philosophy of doing business, especially with small businesses, is really a relationship building process,” Metzger says. “We focus on building that relationship and really being a financial partner of that business.”

For 13 consecutive years, Liberty Bank has been the U.S. Small Business Administration’s top southwest Missouri lender, delivering $53.8 million in SBA loans in 2010.

“It’s a vital tool for small business to be able to obtain capital,” adds Liberty Bank Vice President Garry Robinson. “I think our knowledge of the product and our ability to work with the Small Business Administration puts us a leg up.”

Metzger says southwest Missouri has provided a healthy environment for small businesses and Liberty Bank to grow.

“When you look at the demographics, it’s one of the fastest-growing parts of the state, and with that comes a lot of opportunities,” Metzger says.

“If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re always looking for those opportunities, whether it’s to open up a new business or new service. From a bank’s standpoint, we want to seize upon those opportunities out there and grow in our base of business.”

Growth has been a major focus for Liberty Bank in the past year. The bank made a $5 million investment in a new software platform, allowing for new products and services such as text message banking, iPhone applications and mobile check capture, which enables customers to submit deposits without having to go to the bank.

“It’s given us the opportunity to take our products and services to the next level for the next 15 years,” Thomas says of the platform.

Liberty Bank also has continued to expand job opportunities, leading to a 6.7 percent increase in associates for the first four months of this year. The bank now has 305 employees.

“We view (hiring) as making an investment,” Metzger says. “We don’t view it as adding to overhead. If we see an opportunity out there for growth … we’ll (add) more associates to take advantage of that opportunity.”

Though businesses are facing additional struggles in the wake of the recession, Robinson says Liberty Bank is up for helping them meet the challenge.

“Three or four years ago, businesses seemed to be making more money and didn’t have as many challenges as they face today,” he adds. “But today, they need their banker worse than they ever did. It’s still sitting down one-on-one and attacking those challenges and working through them.”

Robinson notes, too, that Liberty Bank is ready to help tornado recovery efforts in Joplin, and officials are in talks with developers to promote residential rebuilding there.

From the 2011 Economic Impact Awards publication
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