Two historic banking institutions -- Tri-State Bank of Memphis and New Orleans-based Liberty Bank and Trust Company -- are set to complete their merger on Friday (Oct. 8).

Founded in 1946 to “constructively change community conditions,” Tri-State Bank of Memphis is on course to be acquired by New Orleans-based Liberty Bank and Trust Company, the largest African-American-owned financial institution in the U.S.

The boards of directors of each company have approved the transaction, which still must gain the OK of Tri-State Bank of Memphis’ shareholders, along with what is described as “customary regulatory approvals.”

The transaction is expected to close before the end of 2021.

Word of the all-cash transaction came with an announcement on Thursday (June 3) and did not detail the financial aspects. Liberty Bank and Trust Company, which was founded in 1972, is owned by the holding company, Liberty Financial Services, Inc.

“Combining with Liberty, an extremely well-run institution that shares our culture, will enhance our ability to serve our customers and uphold our mission,” Archie Willis, Tri-State’s chairman, said in a release about the move.

Archie Willis: “This transaction is compelling for all of Tri-State’s stakeholders including customers, employees, shareholders and our community.” (Screen capture)

The pending partnership links two minority-owned banks and is being heralded by the new partners as a transaction that will continue Tri-State Bank’s legacy and its mission of “providing affordable financial products and services to the underserved.”

Detailing the partnership, the release about the transaction noted that Tri-State’s mission is “fundamentally a vital aspect of Liberty Bank’s history and commitment to its extensive footprint.”

Liberty Bank and Trust Company and its parent holding company, Liberty Financial Services, Inc., are known collectively as “Liberty,” which would have approximately $965 million in assets and offices in 12 cities on a pro forma basis with its entry into the Memphis market,

Alden McDonald, Liberty’s president and chief executive officer, referenced Memphis’ “extremely rich” history, adding that “…we are proud to continue servicing the Community. … Both Tri-State and our Board have a history of serving the underbanked, and this merger offers more financial access, products, banking technology, and enhanced capacity for lending.

“We are excited and focused on continuing to service the people of Memphis with an expanded suite of financial services – including a more robust mortgage product and a variety of personal and commercial banking options,” he said.

Alden McDonald: “This is a great time for Minority Deposit Institutions, and we are honored to join the Memphis Community!”

The late Dr. J. E. Walker, and his son, the late A. Maceo Walker, founded Tri-State Bank, which long was guided by the late Jesse H. Turner, the first African American to chair the Shelby County Board of Commissioners and former national treasurer of the NAACP. It once served the community through multiple outlets and now operates through a single office at 4606 Elvis Presley Blvd.

As of March 31, 2021, Tri-State reported approximately $105 million in assets and $95 million in deposits.

Liberty, which now operates in 11 cities across 9 states, had an initial asset base of $2 million.  During the reporting period ending March 31, 2021, Liberty Bank and Trust Company had approximately $860 million in total assets.

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