15 Minutes With … Randy Cross

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Randy Cross

Chief Lending Officer
of the $238 Million-Asset
Merchants & Planters Bank in Newport, Ark.

IB: Where is Merchants & Planters Bank? What is your market like?

Cross: We are headquartered in Newport, Ark., a small ag-community about 90 miles northeast of Little Rock. Our market is mainly centered on the production of agricultural goods like wheat, beans, rice and corn, with the exception of our Batesville market, which is more commercial and retail services related.

IB: Describe your lending role and responsibilities as chief lending officer.

Cross: My main responsibilities are to oversee and assist our team of of nine lenders and seven loan processors who manage a diverse portfolio of agricultural, commercial, multifamily, business, real estate and 1-4 family loans. I help them with underwriting, answer questions about policies and make sure we’re meeting any compliance requirements.

I’m also tasked with developing and implementing new lending strategies, as well as recruiting new lenders to join the team.

IB: How have the new CFPB mortgage regulations affected your bank’s mortgage lending?

Cross: The new rules have totally changed how we look at residential 1-4 family lending. We’ve updated a number of internal policies to adhere to the rules. They have changed the way we service, underwrite and view these types of loans. We treat these loans completely different than we did just a few years ago.

IB: How does Merchants & Planters Bank attract new small-business customers?

Cross: Really like everyone else, we focus on marketing and being involved in the community. Making sure our name is out there and people have a sense of what the bank values is key. We’re involved in civic club, chamber of commerce and countless community activities. You can fill the newspaper with ads and buy billboards all over town, but ultimately if you’re not involved with the community you’ll be the last to know when a new business opportunity is coming to town.

IB: What’s something unique you’d like people to know about your bank?

Cross: I don’t even think most people in our market know this, but the single largest shareholder of Merchants & Planters Bank is our employee stock option [ESOP]. The ESOP owns about 30 percent of the bank. It’s something that we take great pride in here at the bank and distinguishes us from most community banks in the area.

IB: If you weren’t working as a community banker, what would you be doing?

Cross: I would probably be a teacher. I worked as an adjunct faculty member at the local community college for 12 years, until the two-year banking degree program was suspended in 2012. Teaching is something that I really enjoyed and have always thought of as a possible second career when I retire from the banking world.

IB: Tell us about yourself. What do you like to do for fun?

Cross: My wife and I have two small boys. My oldest son is seven and my youngest son is four, so they keep me pretty busy as you can imagine. When I do have some free time I love to play golf, but mostly I really enjoy spending time with my family.

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