The Future of AB&T
Monday, April 12th, 2010
As bank closures continue to make headlines, one of Albany’s community banks reports brighter days ahead for their institution.
Luke Flatt, President/CEO of AB&T National Bank, said the bank is rising above setbacks of the past five years and setting the bar high for the future. Open since 1999, the bank met with great success early on, including strong support from the community and steady growth for the first six years.
But by 2005, problems began to surface. While AB&T was still dealing with those issues the economy tanked a few years later, compounding the issues they were already facing, said Flatt, who joined the bank in April 2009.
“In 2005, the bank fell into some hard times. Initially, they were independent problems, but they were exasperated by the collapsing markets and economy of the last couple years,” said Flatt. “The problems are mostly resolved, but there is a little residual we are working through. Things are much improved over what they were 12-18 months ago.”
Flatt said the subprime debacle affected AB&T just like it did other financial institutions across the country, resulting in a decline in real estate values and less demand for loans. Following the subprime disaster, the process for lending money has become much more comprehensive, said Flatt, with lenders requiring more information than ever from potential borrowers.
“There’s been a shift and we’re not likely to return to the days when bankers didn’t ask for a lot of information,” said Flatt, who came to AB&T after serving 11 years as area president for Regions Bank’s South Carolina/South Georgia area. He served the 12 years prior with First State Bank & Trust before the acquisition by Regions in1998.
Community banks in South Georgia, however, didn’t suffer as deeply as banks in Atlanta and North Georgia, where banks were less diversified and strongly concentrated in construction loans and real estate. “That’s not to say community banks didn’t have their share of problems,” said Flatt, who senses confidence beginning to return among consumers.
“[The confidence] is not widespread…people are beginning to talk about investing for the future, buying new cars, repairing their homes and even buying new homes,” shared Flatt. “It’s not reflected in the numbers yet, and I’m not sure how long it will take to show up in actual financial activity. But a bit of optimism is beginning to return.”
Like all community banks, AB&T’s success is directly tied to the growth and success of the area in which it operates. Being a community bank offers opportunities larger financial institutions don’t have, such as being more invested in the community, both financially and as a resource, said Flatt.
“We have the opportunity to be involved and help chart the course in each community in which we operate. We are optimistic about not only being a part of the community, but also being a leader in our community.”
AB&T has a vision to be the gold standard in banking, which simply means to be the best,” explained Flatt. “If we’re going to be in business, we want to be the best at what we do and that means delighted customers, proud associates and pleased shareholders.”
Going forward, AB&T is in the process of raising additional capital to put them in the position to do the things they want to do in the future. “We’re seeking new investors and have had a lot of success lately with response from local investors and people with ties directly to this community. AB&T is poised to do some good things in Dougherty and Lee County.”
AB&T provides 45 jobs locally and operates in Albany, Lee County and Auburn and Dothan, Ala. Formerly Albany Bank & Trust, the bank changed its name with a soft launch some time ago, but plans to kick off a branding campaign this summer, featuring the new name. For more information, visit them online at www.albanybankandtrust.com.