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Agriculture Remains a Focal Point of Business for The Maries County Bank since its Initial Opening in 1900

Terry Helton

Chairman, President & CEO

The Maries County Bank

Interview conducted by:

Bud Wayne, Editorial Executive

CEOCFO Magazine

Published – November 21, 2022

CEOCFO: Mr. Helton, the first thing I see on your website is, “Our roots run deep in the agricultural community”. Would you give us a little background and history of The Maries County Bank and tell us why agriculture is so important to the communities you serve?

Mr. Helton: The Maries County Bank initially opened in Vienna in 1900 and has grown to include ten additional branches which are all located in rural communities. Since our beginning over 100 years ago, we have experienced quite a bit of history and growth, but agriculture has always been and remains today, a focal point of our business.

CEOCFO: What are some of the types of loans you provide and the types of lending programs you participate in, such as the Farm Service Agency’s Guaranteed Lender Program and the Missouri Linked Deposit Loan Program?

Mr. Helton: We try to participate in as many different types of lending programs as possible, we try to give all of our customers as much exposure to all the different programs that are out there. We participate in the MOBUCK$ linked deposit program, FSA (Farm Service Agency), Farmer Mac Guaranteed program. Having access to all these programs helps our customers purchase and operate farms and businesses.

Our true objective is to help our customers in the pursuit of their goals. It is typically AG lending but there is a lot of AG real estate and for most farmers a big expense is the initial purchase of the acreage. A lot of that is real estate loans but we also do machinery and equipment and various types of livestock loans. We do business loans in addition to the agricultural loans.

As far as the businesses that we typically provide financing for, most of those are going to be smaller operations and typically family-run businesses and so forth that are pretty much classified as small businesses. Within the areas we serve and the smaller towns that we serve, we provide financing for a lot of the family-run businesses.  

CEOCFO: You are also Associate Silver Members of the SBA Meramec Regional Planning Commission. What does that mean for you?

Mr. Helton: The Meramec Regional Planning Commission is a great resource for us in this area, as far as the enterprise zones and different things that they help facilitate and help operate. They also provide different types of financial assistance so if we are working with MRPC, we can help provide some of those resources to our customers that they may or may not even be aware of. It has been a very good relationship for us.

CEOCFO: You offer a number of personal loans. Are you more of a business/commercial bank than a consumer bank? What is the mix and would you like to see that change?

Mr. Helton: We have a good mix of each. I would say that mix favors consumer/ agricultural loans but includes a healthy portion of business loans as well. Our objective is to meet the needs of our customers and the communities we serve. Of course, different communities we serve have different needs which is why we require a diverse staff with expertise in all areas.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about your role at The Maries County Bank and how it developed to where you are today as Chairman, President and CEO?

Mr. Helton: I have done a little bit of everything. I originally started out as a compliance officer, implementing a new compliance program for the bank. From there I transitioned from being a compliance officer and worked as a financial advisor and started our investment department with the bank. I had worked as a financial advisor/loan officer until January 1st of 2018, and at that time I was named Chairman and CEO of The Maries County Bank.

CEOCFO: You are in Owensville, Argyle, Belle, Vienna, Iberia, Vichy, Dixon, St. James, Richland and St. Robert, Cuba. What changes have you seen over the past two years?

Mr. Helton: One large change was the addition of the aforementioned Cuba location. It is a beautiful building and is up and running smoothly now but initially, after construction, we were forced to delay our grand opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic was a very fluid time for us but because of the resiliency and strength of our staff, we were able to remain open the entire time to serve our customers. Another change resulting from the pandemic entails the streamlined technological tools we began utilizing in order to support our customers during that uncertain time. We tried to make our customers feel as comfortable as possible while still meeting all of their banking needs. What we’ve seen is that even after the pandemic, customers still prefer these tools because of the convenience they provide.

CEOCFO: Is hiring locally important for you?

Mr. Helton: It is. We try to hire from within the community in which we operate. We strongly believe in that because our whole goal is we want to be a part of the community, so in order to do that we try to hire locally as much as possible and do the best we can to fulfill that as one of our objectives.  

CEOCFO: Do you have someone with Ag experience?

Mr. Helton: Our Board of Directors is comprised of farmers and families with generations of agricultural experience. Additionally, our senior staff positions are filled with professionals who have agricultural experience and experienced lending professionals and support staff makeup our personnel at all our locations.

CEOCFO: How many branches do you have and are you looking to grow that number in the near future?

Mr. Helton: We are always looking to grow. Our ownership is a strong believer in growth. We currently have eleven locations plus a datacenter. We have twelve locations including the main bank here which I operate out of and we also have a datacenter that houses our IT and bookkeeping staff.

CEOCFO: When you add branches is it through acquisition, de novo or a mix?

Mr. Helton: It has been a mixture over the years. We have done a little bit of everything. We have done a lot of them through acquisition but we have also done some de novo from time to time as well.

CEOCFO: Would you tell us about KASASA® and its significance?

Mr. Helton: That is a reward checking program and we have really promoted that heavily over the past few years and that has just been a great program for us. It has enabled us to give back more to our customers by paying higher interest rates and cash back. It has been a great way to promote our free checking that we offer through KASASA. It has been a great rewards checking program for us.

CEOCFO: You have a Facebook page. What do you use your social media for?

Mr. Helton: The main thing we try to focus on is to showcase our staff members so that everybody can put a name with a face. We also share our community involvement and where we will be so that the customer can come out and see us at different community events and talk with us and just try to share community involvement. We provide a lot of educational material on there, anti-fraud tips and different things. We help educate our customer base as much as we can about all financial matters.

We also market out deposit and loan products on there. We share the community involvement and that is our #1 way of trying to get our message out there to our customers, so that kind of markets itself if we do it in the right fashion.

CEOCFO: With the rise of online banking and mobile apps, is the personal touch still important for you and your customers or do you find with the newer generations that are in the workforce these things don’t matter as much?

Mr. Helton: Our belief is that it does matter a lot and that is what separates us is that personal touch. You also have to have all the technology and different tools for the customer to reach-out and conduct business but we believe that you have to have that in addition to that personal touch and that is always going to be important in addition to growing all our technology services whether it is the mobile deposit apps or online applications and digital banking. All that stuff is fine but you still need to have that personal touch which separates you from basic FinTechs.  

CEOCFO: You offer a Memory Makers Travel Club. That is kind of unique. How did that come about and what is the purpose?

Mr. Helton: We had a lot of requests from our customers. The club came about because there was a desire from a lot of our customers to travel but a lot of them were looking for assistance as well as they liked the company of others to be able to share that travel experience with. That just gave them a comfort level of knowing that The Maries County Bank is in charge of handling all of the arrangements, they would not have to worry about anything, so they have a little bit more of a comfort level for people who would not ordinarily travel. They have a comfort level with us handling those services and providing arrangements.

We have a very good Memory Makers director, she travels along with the customers and they just know that if there is an issue that it will be seen to right away. We try to take care of them the best we can. It has turned out really well for us, we have a lot of customers who use it and it is just a great program and I think a lot of the customers really appreciate it. They become friends on a lot of these trips. It is a lot of the same people that would not know each other if they had not gotten together on these trips, they just have a great time with each other.

CEOCFO: How is the bank funded? Do you have shareholders, investors, if so, how many and are you looking to grow that number?

Mr. Helton: We are a privately held bank. Our shareholders are local community members who are hands-on in the operations of the bank and active throughout our community. We also utilize an ESOP which means employees are owners as well. We like the idea of employee ownership as employees have a vested interest in the bank and share in our growth.

CEOCFO: In closing, what sets The Maries County Bank apart from other local banks and why are you important to the fabric of the community?

Mr. Helton: The bank and employees have become involved in all the communities which provides us with better feedback of what the community is looking for from us as a partner in that community. What may not be a high priority to one community, may be a high priority for another. Therefore, we have to get that feedback from the community to know what is expected of us and what we can bring to the table to help grow the community and make it a better place.

The Maries County Bank | Terry Helton | Missouri Banks | Agriculture Remains a Focal Point of Business for The Maries County Bank since its Initial Opening in 1900 | CEO Interviews 2022 | Community Banks

“Our objective is to meet the needs of our customers and the communities we serve. Of course, different communities we serve have different needs which is why we require a diverse staff with expertise in all areas.”
Terry Helton