CEO Conversation: A Career in Focus, Part 1

March 13, 2019

At the close of the first quarter of 2019, CEO Randall Clemons remains intently focused on the bank’s success and what lies ahead for the company.  Near the beginning of his final year of day-to-day duties before retirement, he paused long enough to reflect on some of the events that helped put Wilson Bank & Trust on the map 32 years ago.

 

Can you describe the sequence of events that led to you being hired as the first employee at Wilson Bank & Trust back in 1987?

The only two local banks in Lebanon had both been sold to big companies, and I’d begun to see what it was going to be like working for a corporate bank.  I learned pretty quick that it wasn’t for me, and I had made up my mind to get out of banking and go into accounting, to work full-time as a CPA at a small business my wife and I had started.  Then I got a call to interview at a new bank, which at the time had only filed a letter of intent.  I interviewed with a committee from the board, and I agreed with their philosophy about the need for a community bank, so I decided to give it a try.

 

What was happening with the bank around this time of year in 1987?

I was hired on February 1, and the bank was going to open on May 11.  I’m still not sure how we managed to do everything that had to be done in that amount of time.  Besides hiring, filing applications and remodeling a house to do business in, we had to sell enough stock to even get the bank started.  We needed $3.5 million.  The stock sale was very well received, and we sold $5 million, but that presented some challenges too.  We’d intended to keep our shareholders to less than 500 for SEC filing purposes, but when we saw the demand was too great, we decided to go beyond that.  It was a good decision to spread out the ownership more.

We had a great staff from the beginning, starting with Becky Taylor.  Lisa (Pominski, now the CFO), Kay (Johnson, now managing the Deposit Documentation department) and our other original employees – Cindy Comer, Jamie Johnson, Janet Hayes and Shirley Freels – were a big part of getting everything ready and providing great service.  Our employees have been a key to our success from day one, and it began from that first group that we hired in just a matter of weeks.

 

Speaking of stockholders, the annual picnic is coming up in May.  How did that get started, and why has the event itself been such a big draw over the years?

Really the first event we had for stockholders was before the bank opened. On the Saturday before the Monday opening, we set up a tent and had refreshments for the shareholders to come and pick up their stock certificates. 

The picnics have a lot more people these days, but we’ve always tried to provide good food and some entertainment.  It’s a chance for us to give them some updates on what’s happening with the bank, and we enjoy the fellowship. Even with our numbers today, we’ve been able to keep doing that here at the Main Office, just like we always have.

 

What does the shareholder base look like today in comparison to 1987?

Our stockholder group has grown a lot and spread out considerably since we started.  Many of our original stockholders were middle aged in 1987, so we’ve seen a lot of their children and grandchildren come into the fold.  It’s an honor when they see our stock as something that’s important enough to pass down to the next generation, and we've worked hard to keep adding value to their investment.

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