Editor’s Note: Chief Executive is kicking off a new annual tradition this year by celebrating every sizable (over $100 million in annual revenues) standalone company turning 100 in 2023. Check out the rest of this year’s class for tips, insights and, above all else, the inspiration you need to keep going….and going.
GREAT SOUTHERN BANK
HQ: Springfield, Missouri
Revenues: $227 million
Perhaps even more impressive than the simple fact of Great Southern’s longevity is the context in which it managed to thrive over a full century. Founded as a modest savings and loan by Ralph M. Mack, J. Wyman Hogg, Orvan Picket and John P. McNiel, who collectively invested $5,000, the bank began with just one office in Springfield, Missouri. Today, it operates more than 100 locations across multiple states, served by more than 1,100 associates.
Along the way, it weathered the Great Depression, the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and the financial crisis of 2008. Each resulted in the shuttering of thousands of banks. Early this year, the failure of high-profile institutions like Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and First Republic roiled the industry, but according to Great Southern’s Q1 financials, both net income and EPS were higher than the same period in 2022, though new loan production was down as expected.
Through all the tumult of a century, Great Southern’s staying power could be attributed to several factors:
• High-touch customer service. While the bank has grown to $5.8 billion total assets and now operates regionally with 100 offices in 13 states and 91 retail banking centers in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota, it has worked to stay as close to its community bank roots as possible, stressing customer retention and remaining an institution local people and small businesses can rely on in tough times.
• Embrace of technology. At the same time, Great Southern was an early adopter of mobile and online banking technology and is currently working on rolling out a new core platform and ancillary systems to improve its offering for those customers who want to bank remotely. And for those who still pine for the drive-up option, the bank recently found a happy middle ground: It launched a first-of-its-kind banking facility designed as a four-lane drive-up center utilizing interactive teller machine technology.
• Good citizenship. In addition to prioritizing capital for local small businesses, the bank offers financial sponsorship of local nonprofits and maintains a partnership with United Way. It also encourages employee volunteerism, and bank associates are often seen volunteering for local causes in the community.