‘Humbling, exciting’ New BancorpSouth CEO will take time to learn

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Less than a week into his new role as CEO of BancorpSouth, Dan Rollins is working a hectic schedule.
He’s met with many employees at the bank’s downtown Tupelo headquarters and at its technology center in west Tupelo. But that’s only a fraction of BancorpSouth’s nearly 300 offices in eight states.
On Monday, after a newspaper interview, he was to meet with FDIC officials in the afternoon and investors in the evening.
“I like to visit with people,” he said. “I like to get out and see and learn first-hand. I will certainly do what needs to be done in the office, but I want to go, see, touch, feel and be involved with the folks who take care of our customers.”
Rollins, 53, was named BancorpSouth’s CEO last week. He had been president and chief operating officer of Houston, Texas-based Prosperity Bank.
He replaces longtime CEO Aubrey Patterson, who announced earlier this year he was stepping down from the position. Patterson, CEO since 1990, remains chairman.
In an interview with the Daily Journal on Monday, Rollins said, “I think the opportunity here at BancorpSouth is humbling and exciting.”
Highlights from the interview:

Q. What drew your interest to BancorpSouth?
A. In many ways it’s similar to my former bank. It’s a community bank model, a model driven by people. It’s a banking business. We sell one product, and it’s green American dollars.
The structure and organization was similar to Prosperity in many ways, too. BancorpSouth has a few more bells and whistles and features than Prosperity. Prosperity didn’t have insurance, a big mortgage operation, a big wealth management trust or asset management division
But the core bank itself, where you’re talking about 200-plus locations … it was a very similar opportunity.

Q. What’s your vision for BancorpSouth?
A. It think it’s too early to answer that question intelligently. … I’m still trying to find my way here. BancorpSouth is a great bank with a great history. It has fantastic people. I don’t see a need for a lot of change here. You focus on the core business in banking – taking care of the customers one customer at a time.
Unfortunately, in the economic environment in some of the markets BancorpSouth serves it’s been detrimental and that affected some asset quality issues for the bank.
But the core bank itself has great people, great customers, and I think the real opportunity is to help them continue to grow and to get the bank on the same path we’ve been on in the past.
If you look at BancorpSouth, it grew itself. Some of it was through merger and acquisition, some through organic natural growth in the markets it serves.
In today’s environment, the bank really hasn’t grown much at all the past three or four years because of the problem assets and other issues.
So I think we need to change our focus from the problems we have today – and we have to resolve those problems. The team that’s here has done a yeoman’s job. They’ve done the hard work. The decisions have been made. Now we have to give it time for those issues to resolve.
Then it’s time to refocus on the core the bank has had for many years, which is to grow.
Aubrey has done a wonderful job. I don’t think we need to turn the ship 90 degrees and throw people off the right or left side. We need to make some minor course adjustments and continue growing.

Q. There was a recent article suggesting you would lead BancorpSouth’s growth into Texas.
A. There are a lot of unknowns that come with that. When you look at the banks in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee and add them all up, they don’t come close to the number of banks in Texas.
So from an opportunity standpoint, if you’re talking mergers and acquisitions, Texas is a target-rich environment. Does that mean some of those targets work for us? I couldn’t begin to tell you that.
But obviously, and I’ll use this analogy my dad told me, if you’re going to go fishing, go where the fish are. And if you look at the different places and opportunities, Illinois also has a lot of bank charters.
There will be significant bank consolidation over the next five, 10, 15 years. And if consolidation is going to come, it’s going to happen in places where there are a lot of banks.
Who knows, there may be opportunities in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and west Tennessee.

Q. What about your reputation for efficiency? How does that translate to BancorpSouth?
A. Can BancorpSouth do a better job controlling expenses? Anybody can do that. I can do better at home. My answer to expense control is that we need to be challenging all expenses, making sure if we spend shareholders’ dollars that we spend it in a way that it’s a return to our shareholders.
If we’re spending money on new technology, we need to make sure that it helps us be more profitable in some way.
If we’re hiring new people, we need to make sure they’re bringing in new efficiencies into our operations or making us more profitable in some way.
I just want to ask how do we do this, can we improve and how can we improve. There’s no magic to this.

Q. What’s your message to BancorpSouth investors and customers?
A. We’re not going to do anything that takes us off the path. We just want to get better at what we do. It comes down to what we all want – we want to get better every day.
BancorpSouth has great people and I wanted to be a part of that team.
I’m going to spend the next several months meeting people and learning about the organization before we make any decisions on what we want to fix or what we want to do. I want to learn all about the company.
dennis.seid@journalinc.com