First state-Abilene bank indirectly connected to a bank in the historic city
Longtime Abilene residents might recognize First State Bank-Abilene’s flying “F” logo as reminiscent of another financial institution in Abilene with an almost identical name.
First State Bank-Abilene on South Treadaway Boulevard has its roots in a bank founded 115 years ago in Menard, in the far west of the Hill Country.
But within First State Bank-Abilene’s DNA are strands – in the form of the logo and some former executives – of the once influential First State Bank, founded as Abilene’s third bank in 1948.
That first state bank is long gone, along with the 20-story Enterprise Building, the tallest structure dotting the city skyline, a remnant of its heritage.
An overview of Abilene’s banking history
Given the developments in Bryan Stephenson’s 53-year banking career, his current title as a transition agent at First State Bank-Abilene following his sale on November 16 seems appropriate for reasons other than transferring operations from one owner to another.
Over the years, its offices ranged from a sweeping view of the city’s tallest structure to a tin building that once housed an oil services company.
Stephenson had been CEO of First State Bank-Abilene since June 2003, when he worked with a group of investors to buy Bevans State Bank from Menard. The group included Jim Fitzhugh, who served as chairman.
Menard Bank had around $ 14 million to $ 15 million in assets, Stephenson said.
“We have this bank set up here in Abilene,” he said.
With the additional location came a new name – First State Bank-Abilene – and a shift of the charter from Menard to the city. In 2014, the bank opened a loan production office in Dripping Springs, west of Austin.
The bank’s first location in Abilene was a former land for an oil services company on South Treadaway Boulevard which included a “decent-sized tin building,” Stephenson said.
“The first customers who walked in looked around and said, ‘Is this really a bank?'” Stephenson said with a laugh.
Housing changed quickly.
“We immediately started to build this building,” Stephenson said of the current house. “We moved into this building, I believe, in 2005-06 and demolished the old metal building and built our engine bank.”
Links to another First State Bank
Stephenson came out of retirement to lead the acquisition of Menard Bank and manage its transition and growth as First State Bank-Abilene.
“I had friends here in Abilene who wanted to start a new bank,… but starting a new bank is a real effort, to put it politely,” Stephenson said.
A lawyer with experience in buying and selling banks recommended buying one instead, he said.
Stephenson began making cold calls to banks within a 100 mile radius of Abilene, which led to the Menard deal.
These friendly relations that fostered the creation of First State Bank-Abilene have evolved from Stephenson’s previous years to First State Bank.
He joined First State in 1980, when he was in his prime. Authorized in November 1948 with $ 150,000 in share capital, the bank exceeded $ 500 million in assets by December 1981.
It all started in a one-story structure on South Fourth and Chestnut Streets – the first south shore of the Abilene railroad tracks and the first to feature an ATM window. The bank moved in April 1961 to a new four-story building across from South Fourth and Oak streets. The east and west wings were added in 1977.
The bank literally ruled the city after executives led the construction of the 285-foot First State Bank Tower across the street in the 500 block of Chestnut Street. The bank moved into the building in May 1984 and took over seven of the 20 floors. She continued to own the four-story building, leasing space to tenants.
In 1981, the charter was approved for Independent Bankshares Inc., a holding company with First State Bank, its wholly owned subsidiary. By mid-1984, Independent Bankshares consisted of eight banks and had executive offices on the seventh floor of the First State Bank Tower.
First State Bank’s assets reached $ 577 million in the first quarter of 1984, according to a banking publication released to celebrate the opening of the tower.
Five years later, the First State Bank was shut down by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a victim of falling oil prices and a collapsed real estate market that caused nearly 700 bank failures from 1987 to 1989, mostly in the southwest, according to an FDIC report. .gov.
The assets of the First State Bank totaled $ 265.4 million when the NCNB Texas National Bank took it over on February 17, 1989. The new owners paid the FDIC a premium of $ 520,000 to receive the transferred assets and accepted a purchase price of $ 160 million, according to Reporter-News files. .
Independent Bankshares continued to operate its other seven banks, with Stephenson being chosen to run the holding company, he said.
“We did a lot of different things from 1989 to 2000. The company had been cleaned up, repaired, and in 2000 we sold this organization to State National Bancshares,” Stephenson said.
After six months with the new bank holding company, he is retiring. It lasted two years when friends asked him to go back to the bank.
“Jim Fitzhugh and I grew up at the old First State Bank, so there were connections there. The few shareholders we have were all associated from the client’s point of view – and probably on some level maybe. from the point of view of the shareholders – to the old First State.
“So there were actually quite a few ties, but it was never some kind of partnership or ownership,” Stephenson said.
As for that logo, when First State Bank was bought by NCNB Texas National Bank, “they didn’t get any of the First State Bank stuff back,” Stephenson said.
In 2003, when First State Bank-Abilene came into being, “everyone liked what we called the flying F (logo). Nobody was using it and we just adopted it,” Stephenson said.
The First State Bank Tower was owned by First State Bank Tower Ltd., which defaulted on its loan.
The 20-story building that cost around $ 24 million to build was sold to John Hancock Mutual Life in a January 1990 foreclosure sale for around $ 8 million, according to Reporter-News files.
Further ownership changes followed for the structure now known as the Enterprise Building.
Taylor County acquired the four-story First State Bank building on South Fourth and Oak streets in 1990 for approximately $ 600,000. Today the building is the Taylor County Plaza and state government services include vehicle registration and the election office.
The changes continue to transform the banking industry, Stephenson said. There are more regulations, thinner operating margins due to low interest mortgage loans and more and more clients preferring face-to-face digital engagement for their financial services, a- he declared.
“I have kids in their thirties and I literally don’t know if I remember them saying they went to a bank branch. They may never have been in their life. “said Stephenson. “Our customers in Austin are in that age group. And they don’t really want to go to a bank branch either.”
The new owners of First State Bank-Abilene have long-term plans to grow the bank, and one of the first is to add digital platforms for the next generation of customers.
Stephenson said he plans to continue transition efforts with the new owners for about three months. Then, a permanent retreat away from spreadsheets and federal guidelines.
“I have a little ranchette. There is always something broken down there. I swear I will never buy anything else with a battery on it because everything I have has a dead battery and a flat tire. So I ‘this has to be fixed,’ he said.
Laura Gutschke is a general journalist and food columnist and manages online content for the Reporter-News. If you value local news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.