15 Minutes With … Jimmy Rasmussen

In addition to spending time with family, Jimmy Rasmussen enjoys sporting activities, including fishing and deer hunting.

In addition to spending time with family, Jimmy Rasmussen enjoys sporting activities, including fishing and deer hunting. Photo by Robert Seale

President and CEO for the $543 Million-Asset HomeTown Bank, N.A., in Galveston, Texas

IB: You were recently reelected to serve a second term on the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas board of directors.

Rasmussen: Yes, it is an honor to serve the Group 3 Banks in Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Louisiana for three more years. Group 3 includes the smallest banks in the state with the majority in rural areas. I do my best to be their voice at our Dallas meetings.

IB: What kinds of insights do you provide as a director to the Dallas Fed?

Rasmussen: Thirty-five of the 100 banks in my group agreed to participate in my surveys, and I receive 20 to 25 responses each month. I spend about two hours per month preparing my questions and distributing them by email. My typical mailer includes the previous months’ report and the questions they should answer to help me with my next report.

The Dallas Federal Reserve board meets 11 times per year on the second Thursday of each month. I fly to Dallas the evening before each meeting and fly back on Thursday afternoon. I have served on the audit committee (yes—we are thoroughly audited) for the past three years and will be serving on the budget committee in 2016.

IB: What perspectives do you and other board members provide to the Federal Reserve banks?

Rasmussen: My monthly reports are threefold. They include the most pressing issues that bank CEOs are facing, which typically include regulatory burden. I try to give the Fed staff various performance numbers on our banks, what their projected numbers will be before the call reports are filed, and what their short-term forecasts are projecting. I also focus on budgets, loan and deposit growth, net interest margins, quarterly comparison reports, and the banker’s view of his or her local economy.

Finally, I focus on economic news in our markets, which include five communities south of Houston. The news will focus on capital spending and job creation with an emphasis on Galveston Island, which is where our community bank’s headquarters and largest market is.

IB: How is Texas’s economy holding up with the severe drop in oil prices?

Rasmussen: The economy of Texas is much more diversified than it was in the 1980s, but oil prices are certainly affecting the economy. The Houston region has seen substantial layoffs, and the daily headlines predict more will be announced.

On a positive note, the large oil refineries in our area are thriving. In fact, huge expansion projects are now underway across our region.

IB: Galveston has a big tourist economy. What is HomeTown Bank doing in your marketplace?

Rasmussen: We are primarily a real estate lender, focusing in owner-occupied real estate and in-portfolio home loans. We had a record year in gross loan production in 2015 and are looking to top that performance in 2016. Our lending strongly supports our tourist economy.

Last year, we participated in loans to our port to expand its booming cruise business and to our tourism bureau to replenish sand on our beaches. We also financed several hotels, restaurants, cruise parking lot owners and other retailers that depend heavily on our tourism trade.

IB: Tell us about HomeTown Bank. What are its priorities this year?

Rasmussen: We currently have $543 million in assets with seven locations in five cities. We are staffed by 100 employees, who are very involved in their communities. Several new products are on the horizon, including a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage program and enhancements to our mobile banking services. We are also in the early stages of another expansion and are keeping an eye on acquisition opportunities.

The big news for our bank is we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary in June and have numerous promotions and events planned through the year.

IB: What’s your take on the strength of the Southwest’s economy and the country’s overall economy for the year ahead?

Rasmussen: I believe the Texas economy will continue to grow in 2016, but at a much slower pace than we have seen in recent years. Oil prices will have a negative effect in employment in isolated areas including Houston, but the overall effect of lower prices at the pump will help the consumer. The expansion in the medical community continues to be the shining star in our state.

As for the nation, I think we will see great volatility in our economic news but will hopefully end 2016 on a positive note with oil prices starting to rise.

IB: Do you have any discussions at the Dallas Fed on community bank regulatory burdens?

Rasmussen: I talk about community bank regulatory burden at every meeting. I get great real-life stories from my Group 3 bankers and share them with the board. In fact, most of the questions I get from my fellow board members are about our regulatory burden. When a banker in west Texas with $25 million in assets tells his story about the many roles he has to fill and he questions the viability of his 100-year-old business model, it will get your attention.

Last September, I had the opportunity to introduce our new Dallas Fed president, Rob Kaplan, to many of our Texas community bankers at the Independent Bankers of Texas’s state convention in Galveston. President Kaplan and I have had several discussions about regulatory burden, and I believe he is keenly aware of the problem.

IB: Is there something interesting that might be little known by bankers about the regional Federal Reserve banks?

Rasmussen: The big surprise to me is the quality of the Class B&C directors who serve on the Fed boards across the country. These are the corporate CEOs, university presidents and top managers of large organizations who agree to serve their country by their participation on regional Fed boards. It is an amazing system, and I have had the pleasure of serving with many amazing people.

IB: Any non-work hobbies or activities?

Rasmussen: I enjoy all aspects of physical fitness, viewing our major high school, college and professional sports, fly-fishing, deer hunting and spending time with my family. My beautiful wife of 43 years, Diana, and I enjoy our seven grandkids and our weekend trips to our home in the Texas Hill Country.