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By Christa Jennings
Senior Staff Writer
Changes will be coming for First Bank of Wadley, including the two local branches in Goodwater and Rockford, although what is to change is not yet fully clear.
Late last month it was announced that Alabama ONE Credit Union has entered into an agreement to acquire First Bank of Wadley, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Peoples Independent Bancshares Inc. of Boaz.
As such Alabama ONE will be expanding its franchise in the rural Alabama markets. A press release stated that following consummation of the transaction, “Peoples Independent Bancshares Inc. and its other wholly-owned banking subsidiary, Peoples Independent Bank, will continue normal operations as ongoing entities.”
The purchase furthers Alabama ONE’s mission to expand into communities throughout Alabama while delivering its “quality financial services and excellent member experience,” per Alabama ONE’s mission statement.
Currently Alabama ONE has 18 branches statewide, primarily concentrated in Tuscaloosa and surrounding counties. The purchase of First Bank and the acquisition of its five branches will increase the credit union’s branch network to 23 branches statewide and expand the company’s footprint into East Alabama.
Jared Kirby, president and CEO of First Bank, stated, “We are excited about a combination with Alabama ONE. First Bank and Alabama ONE are two true community financial institutions with strong ties to the state of Alabama.”
As of press time, no information was available regarding what local changes can be anticipated because of this recent acquisition.
When asked about anticipated changes to services offered or any anticipated changes to the Goodwater and Rockford facilities themselves, Kortney Milien, public relations and events coordinator with Alabama ONE, stated, “We’re unable to provide more information until our institution has received regulatory approval. Both institutions will still operate independently until regulatory approval is achieved.”
However, she said that information should become available “in the very near future.”
Royce Ogle, chairman of First Bank, said, “I believe that this will be a win-win for all parties involved, including our shareholder, customers, employees, and the communities we represent. We appreciate Alabama ONE’s recognition of the deep roots First Bank has in our communities.”
Through Alabama ONE’s acquisition of Alabama Rural Electric Credit Union in 2020, Alabama ONE already serves employees and members of the rural electric cooperatives located in Coosa, Tallapoosa and Autauga counties.
“This expansion will provide an enhanced level of member service to the credit union’s current membership and members of our state’s rural electric cooperatives, by granting more physical locations to serve the employees, their families and the communities they serve,” according to a press release from Alabama ONE.
Since CEO Bill Wells joined Alabama ONE in 2015, the credit union has expanded its branch network from 11 branches to 23 branches with the First Bank acquisition. Wells grew up in Winona, Mississippi, a population just north of 4,000 citizens, so living in a small rural town and the need for a strong community financial partner were important for his own family growing up.
“Over time, we’ve seen many banks move out of rural communities,” Wells stated. “Their strategic goals are different than ours. We are acquiring an exceptional seasoned team from First Bank who care deeply for its customers. Introducing these valued customers to our well-rounded suite of products and services designed for rural banking needs is very exciting to us. It is our mission to partner with the communities we serve, and we do this by bringing more than just brick and mortar branches to a small town. We back up our commitment to the community with access to the latest online/mobile banking technology; affordable auto loans; land, agricultural and mortgage products; robust rewards-driven credit cards; comprehensive insurance offerings; retirement/wealth advisory solutions; and financial wellness resources. We understand the needs of our small-town members and find it a pleasure to service them. We are proud to invest in the communities that we serve.”
The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by the Board of Directors of both institutions but remains subject to customary conditions including the approval of First Bank’s shareholder and the receipt of required regulatory approvals, is expected to close no later than the second quarter of 2023.
Following anticipated regulatory approval, Alabama ONE will proudly serve the communities of Wadley, Roanoke, Hollis Crossroads, Goodwater, and Rockford. Alabama ONE was advised in the transaction by the law firm of Rosen Harwood. Olsen Palmer LLC served as First Bank’s financial advisor.