1st Farmers reporting a solid 2009 performance

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

COLUMBIA - Amid a sluggish economy, First Farmers & Merchants Corp., the parent of Columbia-based First Farmers & Merchants Bank, reports a solid financial performance in 2009.

At its 28th annual shareholders meeting April 21, bank leaders summarized annual financials, noted the culmination of a year-long centennial celebration, elected board members and reported on its brand change from "F&M Bank" to "First Farmers."

"When you compare the bank's 2009 performance against its national peer group average, First Farmers saw a return on assets of 0.93 percent versus 0.14 percent," bank spokesman Frank Limpus said. "Against all Tennessee commercial banks it was 92 percent versus a negative 53 percent."

Despite an economy dubbed "The Great Recession," at the end of 2009, the parent company reported an increase of consolidated total assets of $23.9 million, up 2.6 percent, to approximately $935 million compared to Dec. 31, 2008. Net loans were $567.7 million, representing a decrease of $19.2 million, or 3.3 percent compared to loans during the same period in 2008. Total deposits increased $27.5 million, up 3.7 percent, to $772.3 million when compared to Dec. 31, 2008. Total shareholders' equity slipped from $107.3 million to $107.2 million, with earnings per share down from $1.63 to $1.53. Consolidated net income decreased 8.1 percent, by $744,000, to $8.46 million.

"With most of the banking industry in distress, First Farmers kept our customers' investments safe and sound, thanks to: the leadership of our board and management team; the continued dedication of our loyal employees; and adherence to a banking philosophy that has served us well for 100 years," First Farmers Chairman and CEO T. Randy Stevens said. "The year was challenging, to say the least, but if you look back on the history of this bank, you can see a number of defining moments when the people of First Farmers met great challenges head on and carried the bank's customers safely through some pretty tough storms. This past year was one of those moments when the bank revealed its strong, enduring character. That's why customers continue to place their trust in us."

In 2009, First Farmers opened two of its newest banking centers: one in Franklin at Cool Springs; and one at Northside in Columbia and the bank celebrated its 100th anniversary with a number of customer and employee events that recognized the July 26, 2009, milestone.

Also during the meeting, the proposed slate of board members was approved, with two new members being elected by the shareholders. They are: Dalton M. Mounger, an attorney in private practice in Columbia and a current member of the First Farmers Advisory Board of Maury County; and Jonathan M. Edwards, president and CEO of Lawrenceburg-based Edwards Group of Companies, and a member of the First Farmers Advisory Board of Lawrence County.

The Board also recognized W. Donald Wright, who stepped off the Board. He served the bank since 1982.

Stevens spoke briefly about the bank's new brand and its history.

"We felt that after recognizing our 100-year milestone, it was time to mark the beginning of our second century of service with a new logo underscoring a renewed commitment to strong relationships, community service, financial strength and stability," Stevens said. "I think given all that has been accomplished this year despite great headwinds, founder C.A. Brownlow would be proud of the bank he rechartered in 1909 and all it stands for today. I'm excited for the future."

The bank has Marshall County branches in Chapel Hill and Lewisburg and 15 other branches in Maury, Lawrence, Giles, Hickman, Dickson and Williamson counties.