Yorktown Financial buys Century Bank
BY LAURIE WINSLOW World Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
10/30/12 at 4:20 AM
An old bank is getting a new name and ownership.
Yorktown Financial Holdings Inc. has received approval to acquire Pryor-based CNBO Bancorp Inc., the holding company of Century Bank of Oklahoma, and plans to rename the bank Yorktown Bank early next year.
The deal is expected to close Nov. 14.
The idea for the new bank took seed several months ago after longtime banker Steve Austin began contemplating the idea of buying a lending institution.
Austin, who previously worked at Commerce Bank, had left banking but found himself being approached and contacted by customers encouraging him to start a bank.
"It was planted in my brain. I'm not a very risky guy, but when you have enough people individuals and business clients that say that over and over ... "
The idea took root.
Austin calls himself a "nuts-and-bolts" guy - a do-it-all banker who is as interested in making sure a customer's ATM card is working properly and making sure they are satisfied.
At 59, he felt he had developed the right mix of skills that would enable him to run a bank. So, he collected a group of about 110 shareholders who helped raise more than $14 million in capital.
He set out to search for a small bank that didn't have a succession plan and zeroed in on 25 Oklahoma-based banks with the smallest equity capital. He also visited with people who had their "ear to the ground" in the banking community who could help him find the right fit.
That led him to Rick Willhour, CEO of Century Bank of Oklahoma. Austin actually knew Willhour from Hale High School, where the two had attended years before, although both men had been in different grades.
Last year, at 1 a.m. on Nov. 1, Austin emailed Willhour and asked him if the two could talk sometime.
"I emailed him back and said, 'Your sleeping habits are as bad as mine,' " said Willhour, joking.
A few days later the two met for breakfast, and by Jan. 25 they had entered into a letter of intent. The offer, which came out of the blue, made sense, said Willhour, noting that the bank wasn't looking for a buyer.
"At our size and with the regulatory burden and the economy that we're operating in and the competition, we needed to grow. We needed to add earning assets," Willhour said. "It's the main reason we branched out of Pryor to Tulsa, to get into a bigger market."
Century Bank of Oklahoma initially expanded into Tulsa's market in November 2008, operating out of a temporary site until it could move a year later into a permanent location at 5705 E. 71st St.
Then, last year, Century Bank opened a second Tulsa branch at 2201 E. 21st St., which had previously been leased by Bank of the West.
The acquisition by York-town made a lot of sense, Willhour said. Austin had more than 30 years in the banking business along with contacts in the medical community.
Customers will benefit from a larger capital base and larger lending limit.
"The real advantage is the size without the culture change, and still being able to be a small business and still being able to operate the way we want to," Willhour said. "We still will have a person answering the phone. You're not talking to a recorder or talking to someone in Charlotte or Albuquerque. The people that will solve the problems are in Tulsa or Pryor."
With the change, Austin will become CEO of Yorktown Bank and Willhour will become president while his son, Richard Willhour, will be chief operating officer.
The bank's six-member board will include Austin; Blake Atkins, Atkins & Atkins PC; Phil Baxter, Stan Johnson Co.; Nevyle Cable, First National Bank & Trust of Okmulgee; Brett Pratt, United States Beef Corp.; and Rick Willhour.
Austin noted that nearly every board member was raised in the Tulsa area with the exception Cable, who is the "sole outsider" having grown up in Hominy, although he played football at the University of Tulsa.
Austin said the buyout of Century Bank will not result in staff cuts, and actually will lead to the hiring of three new people, including himself.
Nor will the buyout change the bank's personality in terms of how it deals with customers, Rick Willhour said.
"We're not any different than the guy down the street that is working on cars or selling houses or building houses. We're just a mirror image of our customers," he said.
Richard Willhour echoed his father's enthusiasm.
"From a relationship standpoint ... we know our customers' kids' names," he said. We usually know what sports they play. We know our customers. We understand what they do, and that won't change."
Original Print Headline: Yorktown Financial acquires Century Bank
Laurie Winslow 918-581-8466