J. B. Owens, CPA, Senior Vice President and Director of Commercial Banking of First Freedom Bank, was recently appointed to the Board of Trustees of both the Southeastern School of Commercial Lending and the Southeastern School of Advanced Commercial Lending, announced John Lancaster, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of First Freedom Bank.
The Southeastern School Boards serve as an extension of the Tennessee Bankers Association's board of directors and specifically oversees the administration of these two commercial lending schools on behalf of the Tennessee Bankers Association.
The Southeastern Schools provide a solid foundation on which to build a banking career. Graduates develop the skills that will bring them success in upper-level management positions and forge the networks that will serve them throughout their career.
"J. B. Owens is an outstanding choice as a board member for these important banking schools," stated First Freedom Chairman and CEO John Lancaster. "His practical experience as a commercial lender and a senior level bank manager, coupled with his professional credentials, allow him to give a unique insight into the educational needs of developing bankers."
The Southeastern School of Commercial Lending is an intensive, one-week school that concentrates on all aspects of commercial lending. Students receive over 50 hours of classroom instruction, discussion, and case study.
The Southeastern School of Advanced Commercial Lending is an intensive three-day school focusing on advanced cash flow and loan structure, commercial real estate lending, and new approaches to predicting portfolio credit performance and managing portfolio credit risk. This school is ideal for commercial lenders, relationship managers, portfolio managers, senior credit managers, and others who currently are responsible for or are interested in profitably growing the bank's loan portfolio and better managing portfolio credit risk.
John Lancaster, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of First Freedom Bancshares, Inc., announced that the Board of Directors has approved a 25 cent per share dividend payable to shareholders of record on April 15, with a payment date of April 29, 2016.
"We are pleased to announce our fourth consecutive dividend," stated Lancaster. "2013 was the first year our bank was old enough to pay a dividend. This year's dividend reflects a 25% increase over last year and a 150% increase over the original 2013 dividend," he concluded.
First Freedom's 2015 earnings per share increased 14.7% year-over-year fueled by strong margins, operating efficiency and solid loan growth. First quarter of 2016 earnings are not yet available, but loan growth has continued to be strong as evidenced by $15 million growth in the loan portfolio. First Freedom is preparing for a mid-May purchase of three offices in Putnam and Jackson counties that are expected to add in excess of $100 million to the bank's balance sheet.
"We continue to be very pleased with our financial performance and look forward to integrating these three offices into the First Freedom family," stated Lancaster. "We are pleased to be able to reward our shareholders with this dividend and remain optimistic about the future of First Freedom."
In honor of ten years of service in the Wilson County community, First Freedom Bank is spotlighting ten worthy community service organizations, and donating in support of their efforts. In April, First Freedom recognized the Wilson County Civic League (WCCL). WCCL was established in 1984 for the purpose of improving social conditions in the community by promoting programs that enhance self-worth and dignity. Through recreation, education, seminars, workshops, and regular tutoring programs, the Civic League addresses problems such as drug abuse, teen pregnancy, violence, and AIDS. Their philosophy is that preventive measures exceed rehabilitative efforts.
Pictured at the check presentation are (left to right) John Bradshaw, First Freedom President and COO; Ronnie Kelley, President of WCCL; Harry Watkins Jr., Vice-President of WCCL; Fred Burton, Second Vice-President of WCCL; Maliea Oakley, Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources and Facilities Manager of First Freedom Bank; and John Lancaster, First Freedom Chairman and CEO.
Kacey Nieves has joined First Freedom Bank as Customer Service Representative in the Providence office, announced Kenny Beavers, Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking.
"We are excited to have Kacey as a member of the First Freedom team. Kacey's prior banking experience, along with being a lifelong resident of the Mt. Juliet area, makes her a great fit for our Providence office," said Beavers.
Kacey formerly worked for SunTrust Bank as a Financial Services Representative. While at SunTrust, she was recognized as a Gold Level Performing Teammate, which is reserved for employees who excel in client sales and service.
Kacey has volunteered at Mckendree Village Retirement Community and is a 2007 graduate of New Life Academy. Born and raised in Mount Juliet, she resides in the Providence area with her husband and daughter.
Ashley Montgomery has joined First Freedom Bank as Personal Banker in the Mount Juliet office, announced Kenny Beavers, Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking.
"Ashley has been a great addition to our Mt. Juliet office, having worked her entire banking career in this market. Her commitment to providing excellent customer service, along with the ability to recognize the customer's true financial needs are unsurpassed. We are happy to have Ashley as a member of the First Freedom team," said Beavers.
Ashley has more than five years of banking experience. She was previously employed at SunTrust Bank, where she worked in the Mount Juliet offices as a Teller, before being promoted to Teller Coordinator. Ashley was recognized multiple times as a Gold Level Performing Teammate, which is reserved for employees who excel in client sales and service.
Ashley has been involved in Junior Achievement's BizTown Program, where students learn entrepreneurial and personal finance skills while they work and shop in their own vibrant community. She is a graduate of McGavock High School and lives in the Old Hickory area.
First Freedom Bank sponsored a table at the Mt. Juliet Senior Center Spring Gala / Fundraiser for their building fund.
Attendees of that Gala were, left to right: Kayla Holbert, Customer Service Representative at the Mt. Juliet office, Candice Andrews, Customer Service Representative at the Mt. Juliet and Providence office, Matt Kidwell, Dawn Kidwell, Customer Service Manager a the Mt. Juliet office, April Jennette, Office Manager at the Mt. Juliet office and Bob Jennette.
All proceeds from dinner and silent auction went to the Mt. Juliet Senior Center building fund.
In honor of ten years of service in the Wilson County community, First Freedom Bank is spotlighting ten worthy community service organizations, and donating in support of their efforts. In March, First Freedom recognized Brooks House, which provides temporary, safe shelter for up to thirty women and children. Pictured at the check presentation are (left to right) John Bradshaw, First Freedom President and COO, Brooks House board members Brenda Burkett, Carol Ann Griffin and Brenda Callis, Brooks House Director Liz Reese, Brooks House board members Judd Nave and Keith Alexander, and First Freedom Chairman and CEO John Lancaster.
John Bradshaw has been named President and Chief Operating Officer of First Freedom Bank, announced John Lancaster, Board Chairman and CEO. Bradshaw was previously Executive Vice President and COO.
"John Bradshaw has been instrumental in the structure, substance and culture of First Freedom since inception. It is with great pleasure and confidence that our board announces the promotion Mr. Bradshaw to President and Chief Operating Officer," said Lancaster.
Bradshaw was instrumental in the organization of First Freedom and served as an original organizer and board member. In addition to COO, he serves as First Freedom's Chief Lending Officer. He has more than twenty five years of experience in all aspects of banking. Prior to his involvement with First Freedom, he was Senior Vice President of First Tennessee Bank, N.A. in Lebanon and headed the commercial lending and business development in Wilson County.
A lifelong resident of Lebanon, Bradshaw graduated from Castle Heights Military Academy and received his Bachelor of Science degree in finance at the University of Tennessee. He earned his Masters of Business Administration from Cumberland University. He is a graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Banking and the Tennessee Commercial School of Banking at Vanderbilt University.
Bradshaw is past Chairman and Ambassador Vice Chair of the Board for the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Health and Education Board of Wilson County. He is a member of the Lebanon Rotary Club, and has volunteered with Middle Tennessee Junior Achievement as an adult leader/teacher with students at Lebanon High School. He is a past board member of the American Heart Association, the Empower Me Day Camp, and Leadership Wilson Alumni Board. He graduated from the inaugural class of Leadership Wilson in 1994.
Bradshaw and his wife Karen have been married for over twenty-five years and have three children. They are active members of the First United Methodist Church in Lebanon.
In honor of ten years of service in the Wilson County community, First Freedom Bank is spotlighting ten worthy community service organizations, and donating in support of their efforts. The first honoree is Empower Me Center, the Lebanon organization that has been serving special needs individuals for 17 years. Empower Me Center is in the process of raising funds to build a permanent facility which will allow their weekly enrollment to increase from 35 to more than 200 participants.
Pictured at the check presentation are John Bradshaw, Executive Vice President, Director & Chief Operating Officer of First Freedom Bank; Michelle Hill, Executive Director of Empower Me Center, and John Lancaster, Chairman & CEO of First Freedom Bank.
Sarah Poss was promoted to Customer Service Manager & Training Coordinator, announced Kenny Beavers, Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking.
In her new role, Sarah will be responsible for the training process of all new Customer Service Representatives, while managing the frontline of customer contact for the bank.
"Sarah is well qualified to lead our Customer Service training efforts. Her prior experience in the service industry, educational background, and commitment to excellent customer service will greatly enhance our training process," said Beavers.
Poss has more than four years of experience in customer service. She began employment with First Freedom Bank as a Customer Service Representative in January of 2015. She earned her B.S. degree in Anthropology with minors in Spanish and Latin American Studies from Middle Tennessee State University in 2014.
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Sarah has lived in Wilson County for the past 11 years. She and her husband currently reside in Watertown.
John Lancaster named Board Chairman, remains CEO
Ken Howell, board chairman of First Freedom Bank, has announced his retirement from that position. Howell, who was one of the founders of First Freedom Bank ten years ago, has spent more than forty years in banking. John Lancaster, President and CEO, assumes the role of Chairman, effective January 20, 2016.
"Ken's impact on Wilson County cannot be under-stated," said Lancaster. "He has been a leader in business, a major contributor to the community, and a visionary for First Freedom Bank. I am honored to step into the position of Chairman. We look forward to honoring Ken at a community open house/reception later this spring. "
Howell will continue to serve on the board of directors of First Freedom Bank as Chairman Emeritus. He also serves on the board of Shenandoah Mills, Inc. Howell is Lifetime Member #23 of the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce where he served as Board Chairman in 1995. He was instrumental in the organization of the Chamber's Business and Education Coalition which has contributed more than $190,000 in teacher grants throughout Wilson County. He continues to be involved in these efforts.
Lancaster, a Lebanon native, was instrumental in organizing a group of investors to form First Freedom Bank. He served as President, CEO and Director since the bank's inception in 2006.
Prior to the organization of First Freedom, he served as Wilson County Chairman with SunTrust Bank / National Bank of Commerce.
"John Lancaster's background in banking and his leadership qualities make him the perfect choice for Chairman of First Freedom Bank. He is one of the most disciplined and forward thinking individuals that I have ever been associated with," said Howell. "The shareholders of First Freedom Bank and the Wilson County community all benefit from his skills as a banker and a community leader. I look forward to working with John and the entire First Freedom Bank family in the future as a member of the board of directors."
Lancaster is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a B.S. in Business Administration, with Honors. He earned his MBA at Trevecca Nazarene University. Additionally, he is an alumnus of The Graduate School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University, the Tennessee Commercial Lending School and the Southeastern School of Advanced Commercial Lending, both at Vanderbilt University.
Active in community affairs, Lancaster has served as Board Chairman and Campaign Chairman for United Way of Wilson County and a board member of the United Ways of Middle Tennessee. He has served as chairman of the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Greater Lebanon Regional Planning Commission, President of Main Street Lebanon, Inc., President of the Wilson County Adult Reading Council, and as an instructor for Junior Achievement through Lebanon High School for a number of years.
A graduate of Leadership Wilson, Lancaster has also served on the board of the Wilson County Heart Association, the Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County and the Board of the Independent Bankers Division of the Tennessee Bankers Association. He currently serves on the Board of Financial Products & Services, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tennessee Bankers Association. He is a member of the 2016 class of Leadership Middle Tennessee.
April Jennette, Bank Officer, Senior Personal Banker & Team Leader, has been promoted to Office Manager for the Mt. Juliet Office, announced Kenny Beavers, Senior Vice President and Director of Retail Banking.
Jennette started her career with First Freedom in 2007 as a Customer Service Representative in the Lebanon office. In 2008 she was promoted to Personal Banker in the Mt. Juliet office where she was part of the original opening staff. In 2013 she was promoted to Sr. Personal Banker, then again promoted to Bank Officer and Team Leader in 2014. Jennette started her banking career in 1970, with Florida Keys Savings and Loans, where her grandfather was CEO.
Jennette has been recognized several times for her work with awards including the Stellar Teller Award at Regions Bank and the First Freedom Bank Financial Planning Award three years in a row. April has also completed several classes through the Tennessee Bankers Association, focusing on IRA, Bank regulations, leadership and teambuilding. She has also taken multiple courses at the Nashville Institute of Banking and is involved in ongoing training through Skill Path and Fred Pryor Career Track.
"April has worked at the Mt. Juliet office since its opening in 2008. She is a familiar face to all of the Mt. Juliet customers, having served many of them since the office opened. She is known for providing her customers with excellent customer service, along with delivering the proper financial products and services to meet their needs. She is a great example of our "promote from within" strategy and we are pleased to honor her with this well deserved promotion," said Beavers.
A native of Key West, Florida, Jennette is a 21-year resident of Old Hickory in Wilson County. She is a licensed minister of the Christian Gospel. Besides being involved every year with the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, she is also involved with the Mt. Juliet Senior Center, the Mt. Juliet animal shelter and is an ASPCA contributor.
Jennette has been married for 29 years and has three children, 7 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Lebanon, TN First Freedom Bank recently announced its annual Outstanding Employee Award winners. Shelia Ferrell, Donna Watson, Kelly Ferrell and John Hawkins received awards for excellence in various areas of service. The awards were voted on by the employees of First Freedom and winners were announced at the company's annual Christmas party, December 5th.
Shelia Ferrell, Vice President and Relationship Manager at the Lebanon office, was the winner of the Red Carpet Service Award. This award is the bank's highest honor for enhancing the customer experience and rendering service above and beyond the call of duty.
"Shelia relates well with people. She has the unique ability to feel what people are going through and always treats people just like she would want to be treated. This is why she is such a great banker," said J. B. Owens, Senior Vice President and Director of Commercial Banking.
Donna Watson, Administrative Assistant at the Lebanon office, was recognized with the Internal Service Award. This award is given to the employee who provides the best service specifically to other First Freedom employees.
"Donna has excellent interpersonal skills and is always eager to assist her co-workers regardless of the task," according to Mike Wiggington, Chief Financial Officer of First Freedom Bank. "She provides prompt, courteous service to the bank's employees. This award recognizes the well-deserved respect that she has earned from her colleagues."
Kelly Ferrell, Senior Personal Banker & Team Leader at the Lebanon office received the Financial Planning Award. This award is given to the employee who does the best job of recognizing customer needs in the areas of financial planning, retirement planning and investment services.
"Kelly has been a valuable asset to our bank since we opened in 2006. Her years of banking experience and great service keep her customers coming back to her. This is Kelly's second year to earn this award. We are proud to have her on our First Freedom Bank team," said Maliea Oakley, Senior Vice President and Director of Human Resources and Facilities Manager.
John Hawkins, Relationship Manager at the Lebanon office, received the Community Champion Award for representing the bank with his service to the community. Some of Hawkins' involvement includes serving as Fund the Cure Lead Chair for Wilson County Relay for Life, serving on the Wilson County Advisory Board for Fellowship of Christian Athletes, serving as a committee member for the Wilson County Sports Council through the Chamber of Commerce, and serving as a committee member for Jere's Ride. Hawkins is also a member of the 2016 class of Leadership Wilson.
"We are very proud of John and his contributions to the community," stated John Lancaster, President and CEO of First Freedom. "His service touches cancer research, Christian influence, sports promotions and disabled children. He sets a great example for others to follow as he supports our community."
Lebanon, TN - (December 17, 2015) - First Freedom Bancshares, Inc. (First Freedom), holding company for First Freedom Bank, announced today that the Bank has entered into an agreement to purchase three branches from Atlantic Capital Bank, N.A., the bank subsidiary of Atlantic Capital Bancshares, Inc. (Atlantic Capital) (NASDAQ: ACBI). The Bank has agreed to assume approximately $116 million in customer deposits and purchase approximately $31 million in loans and other assets affiliated with three branches located in Algood, Cookeville, and Gainesboro, Tennessee.
"We look forward to welcoming our new customers and employees to our expanding branch network," noted First Freedom's President and Chief Executive Officer, John Lancaster. "This acquisition provides a great opportunity to expand our footprint and offer competitive banking products and services to a broader customer base. We believe our new customers will be pleased with our personalized approach to banking, and our commitment to our people and our communities."
Subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of all necessary regulatory approvals, the acquisition is expected to be completed during the spring of 2016. Detailed information will be provided soon to all impacted customers and employees.
Olsen Palmer LLC served as financial advisor and Butler Snow LLP provided legal counsel to First Freedom. Troutman Sanders LLP provided legal counsel to Atlantic Capital while Banks Street Partners, LLC served as its financial advisor.
About First Freedom Bancshares, Inc. and First Freedom Bank
First Freedom Bancshares, Inc., through its wholly-owned subsidiary, First Freedom Bank, offers full-service community banking through three locations in Lebanon and Mount Juliet, Tennessee, and has plans to open a Donelson, Tennessee office in 2016. Organized in 2006, the bank has fueled its growth around creative solutions for small business, unmatched customer service, and a heavy focus on technology. First Freedom Bank was recently recognized by Banks Street Partners as the 3rd best bank in Tennessee and the highest rated bank in Middle Tennessee. The bank has approximately $318 million in assets, and has 54 employees and more than 1100 shareholders in Middle Tennessee. Additional information about First Freedom Bank can be found at its website: www.firstfreedombank.com.
Here are the winners of the Christmas Contest we had on our social media pages.
Jayci Etheridge, 2 months old, winner of our Christmas Contest for age group 4 and under.
Emily Schmidt, 6 years old old, winner of our Christmas Contest for age group 5-7.
Nghi Nguyen, 10 years old, winner of our Christmas Contest for age group 8-10.
As some of you may have noticed, we recently upgraded our website to a more user friendly and better performing version.
First Freedom Bank is always focused on technology, and the recent changes bring our site up to the latest security protocols.
Because of the recent changes, we would like to inform you that, if you are using an outdated version of your browser, our site might not work, or be fully functional.
Please take a moment to download the latest version of your browser. Whether it is Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, etc. that you are using, the updated versions are in line with the latest security protocols, and therefore will allow our site to work to its full potential.
If you need any assistance in this process, or have any questions, I am here to help. Feel free to contact me at 615-470-1310.
Personal Banker / Marketing Specialist
First Freedom Bank had a very solid third quarter. Through three quarters of 2015, net income is up 30.7% over the same period in 2014. During this same time period, our balance sheet has grown by 10.2%, fueled primarily by a 13% increase in the loan portfolio and a 6.9% increase in deposits. Comparing year-to-date third quarter numbers to fiscal year 2014, Return on Shareholder Equity (ROE) has increased from 12.06% to 13.16%, Return on Assets (ROA) has increased from 1.18% to 1.25% and our Non-Performing Asset ratio (NPA) has improved from 1.66% to 0.97%.
In late August, independent investment banking firm Bank Street Partners released their quarterly rankings report which reflected further improvement in First Freedom's performance from 5th (at 3-31-2015) to 3rd (at 6-30-2015). This made First Freedom the highest rated Tennessee-based bank in middle Tennessee.
First Freedom Bank has purchased a location in Donelson and plans to open a full service office in 2016, announced John Lancaster, president and chief executive officer. Previously a SunTrust Bank branch, the building at 2725 Old Lebanon Pike in the Donelson Plaza will undergo a complete overhaul to be in line with First Freedom's technological and service standards.
Upon completion, the 6,500 square foot office will have private offices for lending, mortgage and investment services. It will include customer safety deposit boxes accessible through state of the art hand print technology and a sizable conference room. The retail lobby will be equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities for customer convenience and demonstration of bank products. Externally, the office will offer 4 drive-through windows with video conferencing abilities, a secure night depository and 24-hour ATM facility.
"We are very excited about our entry into the Donelson market and specifically this location," stated Lancaster. "First Freedom's focus on small business solutions and consumer banking capabilities will be a great fit for the business-heavy Donelson area. We look forward to showing the community how we can add value to their business."
The Donelson office will be First Freedom's fourth retail location, and its first outside of Wilson County. The bank currently operates two retail offices in Mt. Juliet and one in Lebanon. All offices are supported from the bank's operations facility in Mt. Juliet.