Editor's Note: The following article was written by Ryan Thomas of Citizens National Bank in Bossier City. Thomas is president-elect of the Louisiana Bankers Education Council. Throughout 2013, council members will be submitting articles about bankers in their communities.
In the corner of a building that now stands as an Italian restaurant, Will Hubbard was hired as a consumer lender for Bossier Bank and set out on a wildly successful banking career that would span 36 years. Mr. Hubbard was in his 5th year as the manager of a finance company named Family Finance when he was approached and hired by Don Bailey. Little did Mr. Hubbard know that this day would mark the beginning of a storied and esteemed career.
After spending 5 years with Bossier Bank, Mr. Hubbard joined the ranks at American Bank and then ultimately landed at Shreveport Bank. Shreveport Bank was eventually bought by Hibernia as commercial banks in the area were failing left and right. The collapse of the commercial banks was so devastating, that 16 out of the 22 commercial banks in the area failed during the late 1980s. During his 4 to 5 year tenure with Hibernia, Mr. Hubbard assumed the responsibility of assessing which banks would be profitable for Hibernia to bid on.
Aptly dubbed “Bank in a Box,” Mr. Hubbard’s office was filled with boxes that documented the performance of several banks in the area. These documents provided the roadmap for Mr. Hubbard to use in determining if Hibernia should bid on a failing bank or back away and let economical nature run its course.
Somewhere between his 4th or 5th year with Hibernia, Mr. Hubbard was presented with a unique, but challenging opportunity to assume the role of chief executive officer of a then-unknown community bank in Bossier City.
The name of the bank was Citizens National Bank and the year was 1990. CNB was in the grip of an unstable industry. The banking world was just emerging from a tumultuous decade in the 1980s where banks either failed or were gobbled up by their competitors. Mr. Hubbard had two ways to view the offer to become CEO.
The first view was a dismal picture that presented a challenge; a challenge fraught with perils that could lead to not only a failure for the bank, but more importantly a dramatic setback to Mr. Hubbard’s career. This view was hardly the pinnacle of success that every young executive dreams off.
Fortunately for the bank and moreover, the Louisiana banking community, Mr. Hubbard never considered the offer as a challenge. Instead, Mr. Hubbard took the second view; the view that this was an opportunity. Mr. Hubbard saw this as more than just an opportunity. He viewed the offer as the opportunity of a lifetime. All of his hard work, dedication and never-ending hours in the office had finally paid off and Mr. Hubbard gladly accepted the position, rolled up his sleeves and set out to make CNB a household name within the community.
When Mr. Hubbard assumed the highest leadership role, he did so when the bank was reporting assets of $27 million and in a tight situation with the need to recapitalize. So recapitalize is exactly what Mr. Hubbard did as his first order of business when the bank shrunk its assets from $27 million to $22 million. With a little breathing room, Mr. Hubbard now had the cushion to implement the plans for achieving his loftiest goal. The goal that Mr. Hubbard sought was to reach the #1 position in market share for Bossier Parish. The goal would not be easy to attain, but that idea never entered Mr. Hubbard’s mind as he set the bank on a path to become #1.
With only 15 employees, including himself, the bank decided to change everything, go back to the drawing board and totally reinvent the wheel. Contradictory to prevailing banking strategy, Mr. Hubbard decided to lower CD rates and to raise loan rates. He did this with a purpose though as he sought to implement outside-of-the-box thinking. Although in today’s banking world that strategy might be perceived as reckless, Mr. Hubbard knew that he had to radically alter the path that the bank had previously followed.
They started out with doing SBA guaranteed loans. The purpose for the SBA loans was twofold: 1) The bank needed to build earning power for their loan portfolio and 2) The bank could sell these government backed loans as securities on the secondary market if they were in need of some quick capital. The move once again paid off as the loan portfolio started growing year over year. The engine was finally gaining steam and the bank was well on its way to profitability.
During his tenure with CNB, Mr. Hubbard took a bank with share prices of $3/share and consistently improved the value of that stock to reach $25/share. 15 years before his retirement, the bank began paying out stock dividends of 10%. This consistent 10% dividend payout is truly a crowning moment in Mr. Hubbard’s career as the bank maintained a strong earning power after experiencing a time when nobody was sure if the bank would even survive. The 10% dividend payout was one of many acclaimed achievements Mr. Hubbard experience during his banking career.
Mr. Hubbard was elected to several influential boards and awarded many business accolades. Below is a list of just a few of these awards and honors.
- Voted one of the Top 10 Small Business Persons in Shreveport
- Nominated and elected to be the Small Business Leader in Bossier Parish
- 1st Chairman of the Bossier Parish Community College Foundation
- 1st Chairman of Willis Knighton Bossier Hospital
- Elected to represent Louisiana on the Board of Federal Home Loan Bank in Dallas (1 of only 2 elected representatives from Louisiana)
- 100th President of the Louisiana Banker’s Association
After 36 years in the banking industry, 18 of them as the CEO of Citizens National Bank, Mr. Hubbard finally achieved all of the goals he set for himself and decided the time had come for him to step down and hand over the reins to another promising leader, Woody Schick. In 2008, after growing the bank from $27 million in assets to over $470 million, Mr. Hubbard officially retired from his prosperous career as a truly successful banker.
And so today, 5 years after his retirement, I sit with Mr. Hubbard over lunch in the same exact corner where he began his banking career. We swap stories of the up and downs experienced in his long banking career and my very short career. I listen intently as I try to soak up any advice from our current vice chairman of the board and hope one day to share with him the successes of my career.