Progressive Bank finds suitor to be ‘smart’ fit

Knoxville’s SmartFinancial announces plan to purchase community bank group

By Jay Albrecht
UCBJ Assistant Publisher

Sometimes the right fit comes along when you least expect it. According to Progressive Financial Group CEO Ottis Phillips, such is the case with Knoxville-based SmartFinancial, Inc.

With yesterday’s big announcement that SmartFinancial will acquire Progressive’s stock and assets effective early 2020, change is on the horizon for customers, employees and shareholders alike. But Phillips believes those changes will be for the better.

“We don’t want to shock anybody,” said Phillips, who added he doesn’t expect any significant change over the next six months. “We already operate fairly consistently with their (SmartFinancial’s) ways.”

Phillips said he wasn’t seeking a buyer, but that he was contacted by a third party on behalf of SmartFinancial, doing business as SmartBank, earlier this year.

“We want to be a billion dollar bank in 10 years,” said Phillips, speaking of the bank’s strategic plan and its current $300 million asset level. “We’ve been very successful growing organically, but we need more capital to achieve our goals.

“SmartBank is young, aggressive and well managed. They were recently recognized as one of Fortune’s 100 fastest growing public companies in the nation. This is the real deal, and I’ve been really impressed with them. It just seems to fit.”

According to Phillips, what SmartBank brings to the table will be beneficial for all involved. For the banking customer, SmartBank brings immediate technological advances that Progressive doesn’t currently offer, such as mobile deposits.

“’Smart’ is in their name,” said Phillips. “They think they offer technology as good as anybody.”

Phillips said the bank’s lending power will more than double with SmartBank’s size, allowing Progressive to do business with much larger companies. 

Current Progressive shareholders will see a more liquid investment since SmartFinancial is a publicly traded company (Nasdaq: SMBK), not to mention the proposed increase in the value of shares. The current implied price to Progressive’s tangible book value is approximately 124%.

Employees in Jamestown-based Progressive’s group, which includes six branches throughout the Upper Cumberland region, will see more opportunities for advancement within SmartBank’s larger company footprint, according to Phillips. He indicated SmartBank has purposely not filled some positions within its organization in anticipation of this acquisition.

Another notable change is in regards to Progressive’s insurance division, The Rains Agency. It will be folded into SmartBank as the company’s first foray into the insurance field. It is still being determined how other entities under the current Progressive umbrella, Cravens and Company Advisors and Progressive Tax and Accounting, will be impacted by the SmartFinancial acquisition.

Phillips said regardless of the inevitable changes, Progressive is and will remain close to the core strengths that has made it successful. 

“We’re still the same bank, the same service, the same individuals,” emphasized Phillips, who will take a seat on the SmartFinancial board. “We will just have more tools and ways to serve our customers and to make their life easier. SmartBank has community banking roots. They place an emphasis on local programs and activities, being visible in their community.”

While waiting on the final hurdles to be cleared, Phillips said he wants to hear any concerns.

“Come see us with questions,” said Phillips. “We want you (customers) to be comfortable with this transition.”

About SmartFinancial, Inc. 

SmartFinancial, Inc., with assets in excess of $2.4 billion, is a publicly traded bank holding company for SmartBank based in Knoxville, Tennessee. SmartBank is a full-service commercial bank founded in 2007, with 29 branches spanning East Tennessee, Tuscaloosa and Southwest Alabama, and the Florida Panhandle. Recruiting the best people, delivering exceptional client service, strategic branching, and a disciplined approach to lending have contributed to the company’s success. More information about SmartFinancial can be found on its website: www.smartfinancialinc.com

About Progressive Financial Group Inc. 

Progressive Financial Group Inc. serves as the holding company for Jamestown, Tennessee-based Progressive Savings Bank. Founded in June 1980, Progressive Savings Bank has over $300 million in total assets with six branches across the Upper Cumberland region of Tennessee. The bank currently offers insurance lines, independent investment advice, and tax and accounting advice through its wholly-owned subsidiaries The Rains Agency, Cravens and Company Advisors, LLC, and Progressive Tax & Accounting, respectively. For more information about Progressive, please visit www.psbgroup.net.

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