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NobleBank looks to future with new chairman

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NobleBank

Ronnie Smith, Anthony Humphries, of NobleBank & Trust

Banking has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, not least of all through public acceptance of technology, said Anthony Humphries of NobleBank & Trust. 

Speaking by phone Friday, Humphries discussed his new role as chairman of the community bank’s board of directors, a decision the board approved Tuesday. 

Humphries had already served as president of the bank but will turn over that seat to senior lender Keith McCullough. Humphries will continue his role as CEO, while former board chairman Ronnie Smith, who held the seat since the bank’s founding in 2005, will remain on the board but step back to take more time with his family, Humphries said. 

NobleBank has seen rapid change in the last 10 months, just as other local businesses have, Humphries said, though his move to the chairman’s seat likely won’t cause a stir for customers or in managing the bank’s more than $340 million in assets. 

“We want to open again one day,” Humphries said. “We talk about it regularly, ‘When is it time to open?’ And we don’t have that day or time yet.” 

Each of the bank’s locations has operated by appointment for the last few weeks as COVID numbers began to rise again, with most day-to-day business conducted by customers through the drive-thru, the ATM or via online banking. Customers have adapted to the changes quickly, Humphries said, and have in fact still been opening accounts at a rate of about 100 per month. 

“We haven’t seen a dropoff in the total number of transactions; customers can make cash deposits at ATMs, they’ve learned how to use online banking and trader money, make person-to-person payments,” Humphries said. “It’s been really neat to watch our customers adapt to it.” 

Managing money for people in a pandemic isn’t as hectic as it was in the early days, when bank employees were in the building 24 hours a day processing Paycheck Protection Plan loan applications. Small business owners who weren’t even bank customers reached out, Humphries said, because it was so difficult to get through the logjam of applications. They were included in the process just the same, Humphries said. 

“Our kids go to school together, you know, we go to church together and see them at ballgames,” Humphries said. 

The bank offered deferred payments, put some loans on interest-only plans and filed applications that turned into almost $50 million in PPP loans, Humphries said. 

Moving forward, Humphries said bankers are looking to appointments made by President Joe Biden and preparing for any changes that may occur in banking regulations, with a focus on protecting consumers from predatory practices during the pandemic. 

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may operate more aggressively than it has in the past few years, Humphries said, taking a close look at payday lending and finance companies, and mortgage brokers, but also banks. 

Still, not much is likely to need changing at NobleBank, Humphries said. 

“Our focus is small business and consumers,” he said, “so we’re going to do it anyway. We’re going to do the right thing.”