Patterson: BancorpSouth in good hands

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Dan Rollins officially takes the helm of BancorpSouth today, stepping into the big shoes of a leader who grew the bank 13-fold during his tenure.
Aubrey Patterson, who started working for BancorpSouth in 1972, steps aside after 22 years as chief executive.
He’ll remain as chairman of the board at least until April, when the annual shareholders’ meeting is held.
An outside search firm and a committee from the bank tapped Rollins, 53, on Monday for the CEO position.
Rollins was the former president and chief operating officer of Prosperity Bank, based in Houston, Texas. The bank has 213 branches across Texas and some $13.9 billion in total assets.
Patterson, who also was directly involved in the selection process, said Rollins emerged early as a leading candidate. And he said BancorpSouth is in good hands.
“My message to our constituent groups, clients, shareholders and company employees, would be that we are all committed to a smooth transition to new CEO leadership,” Patterson said. “Further, we are all committed to building on the strengths of this fine regional institution. Mr. Rollins has a great background which, in my view, uniquely qualifies him to lead BancorpSouth into an even brighter future.”
Patterson said he’s known Rollins for a couple of years and watched with interest “his success in managing the highly profitable growth of Prosperity Bank.”
It’s unknown who the other candidates were besides Rollins. Patterson said the bank would not comment about the makeup of its CEO pool, but he did add that a “large number of candidates were considered.”
In Rollins, BancorpSouth found a leader who likely will look for growth opportunities.
During Rollins’ time, Prosperity acquired five Texas financial institutions in the past year alone. All but a handful of Prosperity’s branches have been obtained through merger and acquisition, according to the Houston Business Journal.
Patterson said he was ready to advise and support Rollins “in any way I can to ensure that he is successful in his opportunity to lead this fine institution. I am quite confident that he will be.”
‘LISTEN CAREFULLY’
Patterson also offered some advice for his successor.
“My first item of advice is one that is absolutely unnecessary because he has already indicated it’s his approach – that is to listen carefully for some period of time and get to know the strengths and weaknesses of the company as they can only be fully seen from the inside,” he said.
Patterson often has said his years with BancorpSouth were his life’s chosen work.
During his 40-year career, Patterson saw a small Tupelo-based bank with about $100 million in assets grow into a nearly 300-location, eight-state financial holding company with more than $13 billion in assets.
When he became president and chief operating officer in 1983, Bancorp of Mississippi and its subsidiary, Bank of Mississippi – the predecessors of what is now BancorpSouth Inc. and BancorpSouth Bank – were squarely rooted in Northeast Mississippi. The company had some $500 million in assets. Four years later, when a new statewide banking law was approved, the company became Mississippi’s first statewide bank with a merger with First Mississippi National Bank.
Patterson was president and CEO from 1990 to 1991, then named chairman and CEO in 1991. The bank expanded into Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas over the next eight years, and its assets grew to $9 billion. It was in 1999 that the bank and its financial holding company became BancorpSouth.
Patterson said his most enjoyable time at BancorpSouth has been being a part of that tremendous growth.
“It has given many of our fellow citizens of Northeast Mississippi the opportunity to grow and develop their professionalism as the company has grown and become more sophisticated,” he said.
dennis.seid@journalinc.com