A Vision for the Future

For the past two years, Southern has been on a journey to rediscover its founding principles and refocus its efforts on the core mission for which it was founded nearly three decades ago. The original vision set forth for us was simple: bring economic opportunity to underserved communities through responsible and responsive financial products and services. And while we have adopted various methods of community engagement and development over the years to great success, our roots have called us to refocus our efforts while increasing the scale of our work.

Today, we embrace our past as we look toward our future. In pursuit of our mission, we have adopted three audacious goals toward which we will work over the next decade.

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Empowering Homeowners

Buying a first home is one of life’s major milestones. For many, homeownership is one of the best ways to accumulate assets, build wealth, and secure a stronger financial future. Of course, the home buying process itself can be intimidating, so when Stefanie and Brett Davis began thinking about purchasing a home for their young family, they wanted to learn more. And as a teacher, Stefanie couldn’t pass up the chance for her students to learn something new as well. Southern Bancorp staff came to her school and taught both students and teacher about the home buying process—an educational service Southern provides to customers and residents across its markets.In 2014, Stefanie and Brett put that knowledge to use, and with Southern’s assistance, purchased their first home. In 2014, Southern supported 664 people in their pursuit of homeownership and improved net worth.

storefront-icon-purpleCreating Jobs by Supporting Entrepreneurs

Southern believes that entrepreneurs are an important ingredient to creating economic opportunity, which is why we strive to find ways of bridging the gap between rural entrepreneurs and financial capital. For entrepreneurs Peggy and Eddie Gong of Cleveland, Mississippi, this gap was starting to appear too large to conquer before Southern’s lenders came into the picture.

Business experience is something the Gongs have in great supply. Having operated a successful print shop in Cleveland for several years, they know what it means to build a business from the ground up. Yet even this wealth of experience was not enough to convince other banks to help them with the SBA loan they needed to realize their dream—a family-friendly bowling alley to cater to the community’s large youth population.

The Gongs met with Southern’s lenders who listened to their story, read their business plan, and saw the potential for what they wanted to bring this college town with few entertainment outlets. With financing in place, Harmony Bowling is under construction and set to open its doors to hundreds of eager young bowlers in the summer of 2015.

In 2014, Southern supported 1,159 entrepreneurs and 7,712 jobs.

pig-icon-greenBuilding Economic Security

Understanding and developing habits that positively impact your credit, as well as avoiding financial pitfalls that can create barriers to achieving your financial goals, work together to build economic security and independence. Southern’s goal-oriented approach to financial well-being stresses the importance of getting one’s financial house in order through a variety of products and services that when used together, can lead to life changing results.

As a young mother, Angela Chestnut didn’t spend much time thinking about her financial health. Working two jobs and raising her children provided little time for sleep, much less worrying about her credit score. However, as she grew older, she began to think about her family and what she needed to do to provide a safer present and future for them.

While living in public housing, Angela made a decision to get her finances in order to provide a permanent home for her family. She visited with Southern Bancorp’s credit counselors to build her credit, opened a matched savings account to help her both understand and build her savings toward homeownership, took advantage of Southern’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program to have her taxes filed for free, and finally, took homebuyer education courses to prepare for her next step. Today, Angela is a proud homeowner who credits Southern with helping get her financial life on track.

In 2014, Southern helped 7,455 people like Angela put their financial life on track through education and savings programs.