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Meet the $1 billion Middle Tennessee bank you’ll soon see on your street

If you’ve ever wandered down Broadway, you’ve seen their ATM at the Second Avenue intersection, but now First Farmers & Merchants Bank of Columbia, Tenn., is ready for you to see their branches.

The bank — which has more than $1.3 billion in total assets — has quietly established a foothold for itself in both Davidson and Williamson counties. Last week, First Farmers officially opened a downtown office in Franklin and is slated to open another in Brentwood this August.

First Farmers’ push to boost its metropolitan footprint is part of a fast-moving stream of banks looking to profit from Nashville’s continuing boom. That desire has led to increased competition among the city’s local lenders and increased opportunities for businesses looking for financing options.

First Farmers CEO Randy Stevens said the bank has opened eight branches in recent years, with six located in Williamson and Davidson counties.

“The reason we started going north in Williamson and Davidson counties was because we were getting referrals from customers in that area,” Stevens said in phone conversation with the Nashville Business Journal. “It kept increasing each year.”

Stevens said another draw to the market was the number of calls First Farmers would receive from bankers looking to switch from larger banks. For instance, Jim Gardnerthe bank’s recently announced Nashville president, joined First Farmers in 2015 from Renasant Bank, having also worked for The Bank of Nashville and SunTrust Bank.

Brian Williams, the bank’s president, said Williamson and Davidson counties now account for more than one-third of the bank’s total assets, having more than doubled the bank’s assets in the market in the past two years.

And with the bank’s size on its side, First Farmers could find itself in a similar to position many banks in Middle Tennesseehave recently been put in: One day they are a potential seller, and the next they are the potential buyer. That switch is indicative of Nashville’s “It City” status and its active merger market.

Of potential buyers, Stevens said, “All banks have to face that, and when they’re a conservative, profitable bank in the locations we are, there’s always that possibility.”

Stevens and Williams insist First Farmers is not for sale. They added that, despite their desire to grow organically, the bank is not afraid of doling out some cash for a potential purchase.

Meg Garner


Nashville Business Journal


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