John Presley and Ken Lehman are at it again, this time looking to expand a small Tennessee bank from Dolly Parton’s hometown into Richmond.
Sevier County Bank, a $400 million institution based in Sevierville in eastern Tennessee, is planning a branch in Richmond, its first outside of its namesake county.
The pending move was confirmed by John Presley, the bank’s executive chairman and the former CEO of First Market Bank and First Capital Bank, two Richmond-based banks that have long since been acquired by other peers.
It’s that experience in Richmond that Presley said is one of the driving forces behind the expansion plan.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense if you just looked at it on paper, but if you think about my experience in Richmond going back to 1997… I’ve been involved in two banks in Richmond that have gone pretty well.”
Lehman is also no stranger to Richmond. He’s majority shareholder of Midlothian-based Village Bank and was a major shareholder in First Capital prior to its sale and his successful exit from that investment.
Both got involved in Sevier last year, as it was finally working its way out of problems that started back during the Great Recession. The 111-year-old bank raised $18 million in fresh capital and Lehman ultimately invested in a big way — becoming majority shareholder of the closely held bank with a 40 percent stake.
Freed earlier this year from the scrutiny of a regulatory consent order, Presley said the bank is healthier than it’s been in years and on the hunt for new sources of revenue.
“We have a lot of liquidity at this bank and we’re looking at ways to better deploy it. We are in the part of Tennessee that’s heavily reliant on tourism and we’d like see if there’s a way to diversify our portfolio.”
Indeed, Sevier County, which sits about 400 miles southwest of Richmond, just west of Tennessee’s border with North Carolina, is home to attractions like the Great Smoky Mountains and Dollywood, the Dolly Parton-centric theme park. The bank has six branches, including one on Dolly Parton Parkway.
Presley said the bank is awaiting regulatory approval to open a branch in Richmond and is in negotiations for a property here. He would not comment on the real estate side of its plans.
“Hopefully, we can get approved and move forward with it,” said Presley, who still has a home in Richmond and serves as managing director at local M&A advisory firm Transact Capital.
Presley said the bank realizes that its name likely won’t travel well into Richmond and it is considering using a different brand should its plans here come to fruition.
“Sevier doesn’t really make the leap into Richmond. It’s likely we’ll have a different name but similar in style and look. I think we’ll probably rely heavily on the initials SCB.”