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In this file photo, the late-Bobby Martin, right, his grandson, Bob Glover, and daughter, Mary Childs. Martin was the longtime chairman of the Peoples Bank, based in Ripley. Childs is currently president and CEO.

RIPLEY • For nearly 100 years, The Peoples Bank of Ripley has grown and thrived on the premise that it knows the people and communities of Tippah County best.

And during that time, the bank has grown to five branches — all located in its home county — with total assets of nearly $530 million. 

The bank is led by president and CEO Mary Childs, who has held the title since 2012. Her father, the late Bobby Martin, who joined the bank in 1961, held the title for nearly 42 years. Martin was chairman of the bank when he passed away in 2020.

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The family is deeply rooted with the bank as much as the bank is rooted in Tippah County. Another member of the family Bob Glover – Childs' son and Martin's grandson – is a vice president, investment and secretary office with the bank. 

"The bank has been a part of my whole life because my dad came here when I was four years old," said Childs. "Being around the bank and the community, I became aware of how important it is to have a community bank, and the rewarding part of that is being able to help with business startups, buy new homes, educating their humans, buying a first car for a young person – all those things make banking so special."

Helping her fellow citizens via the bank helps build the community.

"In turn, we're making it a better place to live," Childs said. "My dad taught us that, and it's also become the philosophy of the entire bank and its management team."

The Peoples Banks is headquartered in Ripley, where it has two additional branch offices. It also has an office in Blue Mountain and Walnut. Expanding beyond Tippah County isn't in the bank's plans.

“We feel like we know Tippah County and it's our home base,” Childs said. “Some of the outside markets are very different, and we've been very successful in our own county and staying with what we know."

Humble beginnings

The Peoples Bank was founded after the failure of the Bank of Ripley. Fred Smith, a local attorney, was granted a charter from the state to establish the new bank on April 23, 1925. With $15,000 in capital, he was the bank’s first president, and was joined by Erst Long, Orbrey Street, J.C. Dixon and J.K. McBride.

Smith in 1950 sold a majority of his stock in the bank to Guntown native L.E. Watson, who then became president. Eight years later, McBride and Oscar Shannon bought all of Watson’s bank shares, and McBride was named president while Shannon was named vice president.

Shannon was named president after McBride died in 1961. Martin, who joined the bank as a cashier that same year, was elected president and CEO when Shannon died unexpectedly in 1970.

Martin proudly gave way to his daughter in 2012, as Mary became the first woman to lead the bank.

Standing on its own

The Peoples Bank is the go-to choice for banking for Tippah County, as it holds 75% of the market share. Only two other financial institutions have a presence in the county, and they're based out of state: Russellville, Alabama-based CB&S has two branches, in Walnut and Ripley; and Birmingham-based Regions Bank has an office in Ripley.

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Childs said her bank's ability to connect with its fellow citizens is why it has become the people's choice for meeting their financial needs.

"Our service, quality and experience for our customers is what we have to offer," she said. "We try to stay up with the latest technology, which can be tough for a small community bank like ours because it changes so rapidly and it's so expensive. But we try to offer what our customers desire and want to make their lives easier."

There was no better example of that than during the pandemic, as the bank saw customers who had never used mobile banking before to meet their needs. There were many who used the internet and and ATM to do their banking for the first time as well.

"We had those products for them, and once we helped them through it, they loved it," Childs said.

But reopening the lobbies to customers to once again interact with its customers was a welcome move.

"We love that and most of our customers love that," Childs said. "Now we do have some younger customers who don't care to come in and probably won't unless they have to, but that's OK. For the most part we treat everybody the same, and we go the extra mile for them."

The Peoples Bank has about 80 employees, all willing to help its customers.

"And that's what I think sets us apart from our larger competitors, institutions that are more spread out and don't have the personal touch that we have," Childs said.

As a smaller community bank, employees of The Peoples Bank often have to take on additional responsibilities that their larger counterparts are able to share with much larger staff.

Regulatory compliance requires quite a bit of time and investment, and it can be more burdensome on smaller banks. The Peoples Bank is no exception.

"Finding the right fit for those jobs can be more difficult with a community bank, and it's more expensive, too, with the education process, the forms and documents that have to be printed ... it can be burdensome, and it's that way for everybody," Childs said. "But community banks have fewer people to handle all those things."

Still, the bank has managed to handle those challenges, even as they grew during the pandemic.

The Peoples Bank experienced deposit growth year-over-year of 11.6% to some $472 million and asset growth of 9% to $529 million as of Dec. 31 of last year.

With rising inflation and rising interest rates, the future holds a bit of uncertainty for everyone, but Childs said The Peoples Bank is in position to navigate those waters as well.

"It should be interesting; we've definitely faced some unprecedented times," she said. "But we feel like there will always be a need for community banks like ours."

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