While Columbians prepared to ring in the New Year, Providence Bank celebrated its birthday.

Providence Bank opened for full-service business Dec. 30, 2008, and Brett Burri, the president and CEO, said they are aggressively seeking acquisition opportunities in central Missouri and the Midwest.

Brett Burri

Brett Burri

The Laurie family of Columbia provided the startup capital and owns Linco Bancshares Inc., the holding company that owns the bank. Bill Laurie and Nancy Walton Laurie, niece of the Walmart founder, also serve on the bank’s board of directors, along with Burri, Bunky Wright, Dick Thomas, Sammy Mayes and Brent Karasiuk.

After acquiring the Bank of Lincoln County, headquartered in Elsberry, Mo., and first chartered in 1888, the company opened a loan production office in June 2007 on Carter Lane near Grand Cru restaurant and re-chartered under the Providence name in February 2008.

The bank joined the “full-service” ranks when it opened its main banking facility at 8 N. Fifth St., a block north of Broadway and next to the city parking garage under construction.

Nurturing an infant bank during a time of turmoil in the industry might not seem like a great idea, but the move apparently has worked out for Providence. In Columbia, the bank now holds $26 million in deposits, about $20 million of which is located at the Fifth Street location.

Growing from three employees, the bank now employs eight full-time and two part-time employees at its Fifth Street and Carter Lane locations. In the past year, the bank’s assets have grown from $40 million to $131 million, the bulk of which comes from the Columbia market, Burri said.

Burri and Vice President Wes Parks built their early business by working with previous contacts in the market, calling on those with whom they had prior banking relationships and using past experience to build a better bank, Burri said.

“We’re a relationship bank,” Burri said. “We try to be flexible with our terms. We try to over-serve. We kill ‘em with service and really try to deliver a quality experience.”

Since opening its doors in 2007, deposits at Providence Bank have grown from $40 million to $130 million.

Since opening its doors in 2007, deposits at Providence Bank have grown from $40 million to $130 million.

Having known Burri for a long time, Providence customer Greg Wolff, owner of Marathon Office Interiors, said he enjoys that personal relationship and the ability to get a quick response on an urgent issue because time is his most important asset.

“When you own a business, it’s really nice for a banker to know about your business; Brett has had an understanding of my business needs for quite some time,” Wolff said. “I like the fact that I can interact with Brett directly and bounce ideas off of him. He gives me really good, frank feedback. I personally enjoy the fact that I can call and speak with the president and get his direct thoughts on things.”

With 135 bank failures nationwide in the past year, the banking industry still faces many challenges, Burri said. But wariness of the potential dangers and prudent lending strategies led Providence to weather the storm, sometimes even profiting from the situation by being able to offer better terms than other lenders in more difficult straits, he said.

“We were very mindful of our approach and avoided a lot of the pitfalls that some other banks have gotten into,” Burri said. “Our credit portfolio remains strong. We have not seen a tremendous up-tick in delinquent credits or losses that have been plaguing the banking industry.”

With 30 years of experience, including serving as the president of two other banks, Burri said he jumped at the opportunity to build a small growing bank and its policies from scratch without interference from faraway corporate offices.

“I had spent my entire banking career in large corporate banks,” Burri said. “The larger the bank got, the more removed the decision-makers were. It was very difficult to get loan transactions done with a cumbersome approval process. Sometimes even the most minute of decisions required what seemed like an Act of Congress.”

“They’ve been good to work with, not only on my personal projects but also with clients of mine and their projects as well,” said customer Travis H. McGee, owner of Certified Realty Inc., a local commercial real estate company. “They’re good people, easy to get along with, and I think their success is because of that.”

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