M News: What's New With Us. What Matters To You.December 9, 2021 12:36 pm
We are excited to announce that as of January 5, 2022, we are now officially a part of the SouthPoint Bank family. Merchants Bank of Alabama, a division of SouthPoint Bank, is now stronger and ready to serve your growing needs even better. “Merchants Bank of Alabama and SouthPoint Bank coming together is a win-win,” said Charlie NeSmith. “With a lot more wins for our customers and for Alabama in the years ahead.” We’ve put together a merger information page that will answer all of your questions. Click here to view and watch a video featuring Charlie NeSmith of Merchants Bank and Steve Smith of SouthPoint Bank >
We’re two great Alabama community banks that are now way better together!March 10, 2021 4:23 pm
Spring is in the air, which for many means waking up from hibernation and cleaning out the clutter. Your spring to-do list shouldn’t be limited to your home. Now is the perfect time to give your finances a deep cleaning. Even if you recently took a look at your finances as you prepared for tax season, here are seven areas that could use your attention.
1. Dust off your credit report and score
If you are concerned about identity theft or you are planning to make a major purchase, you should know your credit score and what is on your report. Businesses also inspect your credit history when evaluating applications for insurance, employment, and even leases. It is important to review your score for accuracy at least annually.
Fortunately, checking your credit report is easy. You are entitled to one free annual report from each of the three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. You can request a report at https://annualcreditreport.com.
2. Review your budget
When was the last time you looked over the money coming in and more importantly, going out? The turn of a new season is a great time to take a step back to make sure all of your expenses are being considered.
Look over your investment accounts
Just like your retirement accounts, consider a springtime review of your portfolio with your financial planner.
3. Create a detailed plan to pay off your current debt
Adjust your budget and make a solid commitment to paying off any credit cards and student loans.
4. Revamp your emergency fund
If you do not have one already, starting an emergency fund should be on your spring cleaning list. The standard is to set aside 3-6 months of expenses in case you or a family member encounters an unexpected emergency. With an emergency fund, the smaller emergencies (e.g. replacing a washing machine) can be easily covered. It is better to have an emergency fund and not use it than to need a repair and not have one.
5. Go paperless
Switching to paperless transactions are a pretty simple way to streamline your life – which inturn helps the environment. Online financial management can offer access to tools that help you become more efficient and organized. Examples of paperless options include:
- Electronic Bill Payment
- Online Banking
6. Comparison shop for major fixed expenses
Now is a great time to shop around for services such as Health, Life, Disability Insurances, cell phone providers and utilities.
7. Do an overall financial review
Take a check of your accounts regularly. This includes reviewing your insurance policies, annuity contracts, retirement plans and savings accounts. Do these accounts keep you on track for your goals? Do you need to make adjustments? Do you have your beneficiary accounts up to date?
Spring cleaning your finances is a great way to reassess and recommit to your goals. Using the seven tips above will give you a great starting point toward achieving your goals.
December 29, 2020 3:32 pm
In order to provide you with even greater online security, “merchantsbankal.com” is now “merchantsbankal.bank”. Only our URL has changed, but with this simple change comes additional security features designed to keep your personal and financial information safe.
With our transition to merchantsbankal.bank now complete, you can be assured that when they visit our website, or communicate with us electronically, enhanced security and verification requirements are in place in order to reduce the risk of cyber threats and enable us to continue to build on our highly-trusted secure environment.
I don’t see many other banks moving to .BANK, why did Merchants Bank of Alabama, a division of SouthPoint Bank?
We believe our customers deserve the best online security! We take the security of our customers’ information very seriously and therefore chose to take this extra step to give Merchants Bank of Alabama customers peace of mind when banking with us online. We believe that the .BANK domain provides an additional layer of security that the other top level domains such as .com do not.
Why is .BANK more secure?
.BANK domains signify that a company has been verified as legitimate and is committed to implementing the additional and mandatory security requirements that go beyond existing standards. Only verified banks are allowed to use the .BANK domain. Therefore, when you see a domain which ends in .BANK, you can be assured that you are dealing with a legitimate, verified financial institution.
Because of the additional security measures taken in the verification process, cybercriminals can be identified and denied the right to obtain a .Bank domain name. Therefore, the .Bank environment provides an enhanced level of security against imposter sites and peace of mind for our customers and business partners.
What are the enhanced security requirements in .BANK?
Mandatory verification of charter/licensure for regulated entities ensures the organization requesting the domain is legitimate, the person requesting the domain name is authorized by the company and that the name requested by the company complies with all policies.
- Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) to ensure that Internet users are landing on participants’ actual websites and not being misdirected to malicious ones;
- Email authentication to mitigate spoofing, phishing and other malicious activities propagated through emails to unsuspecting users;
- Multi-factor authentication to ensure that any change to registration data is made only by authorized users of the registered entity;
- Strong encryption to ensure security of communication over the Internet;
- Prohibition of Proxy/Privacy Registration Services to ensure full disclosure of domain registration information so bad actors cannot hide.
Please Note: Our old “merchantsbankal.com” URL will continue to redirect to “merchantsbank.bank”, but be sure to update your bookmarks accordingly. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns about our transition to “merchantsbankal.bank”.September 8, 2020 12:09 pm
Shown in photo L to R: Peyton, Abigail, Sandra and Greg Black.
In November of 2018 Greg Black cut the ribbon on his new convenience store and gas station in West Point, the latest milestone for a family that never cut ties with Merchants Bank, a division of SouthPoint Bank. Two generations before, Greg’s grandfather Ernie Pitts banked with Merchants when he started Pitt’s Grocery, a favorite stop on the daily commutes and family trips of people in the area. When Greg’s mother passed away, she left him the family store. Greg, who was then in law school, chose the name dale’s for the store he planned to expand, as that had been the favored middle name in his family. He chose Merchants Bank, a name that had been just as much a part of their family history and started with a $100,000 loan to install gas pumps and expand his store and one location.
Like his customers, Greg found everything he needed in one place to keep moving ahead. “They trusted me,” Greg says. “The loans got bigger, and the stores got bigger and nicer.” Greg’s mother never lived to see Greg expand the family business into three convenience store locations in the Cullman area, including a beer and liquor store in Hanceville, and a convenience store with gas, pizza, biscuits and donuts in West Point. However, the family legacy lives on, as part of life in Cullman. In March of 2020, Merchant’s helped Greg apply for Payroll Protection Program loans to protect that legacy. When asked for advice on starting a successful business, Greg says turn to your local community bank.
“Go with your local bank. Merchants has been great to me.”12:07 pm
Shown in photo L to R: Dorgan, Robin, Brittnie and Chris Phillips, Just GM Auto And Truck Repair Plus
Recently voted Cullman’s first choice for truck and auto repair, Dorgan Phillips’ business has come a long way since starting in 2008. To get there, he chose local banking driven by relationships. Dorgan worked as a master tech at a GM dealership for 28 years. When dealerships began to suddenly close, he saw it was time to switch gears. So he called the bank that over the years had financed not only his home and cars but his rental properties. He had a small shop restoring seven or eight muscle cars, and wanted to expand into his own repair facility, specializing in GM cars and trucks.
Turning that vision into a business, he needed the local banking that could turn things around quickly and that had always been his experience at Merchants Bank of Alabama, a division of SouthPoint Bank. Dorgan’s relationship with Merchants has lasted three decades and as many bankers. Relying on Merchants has been a given throughout the rapid growth of his business, the purchase of his then leased mechanic shop in 2013 and in early 2020 Merchants provided the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans that helped him weather the pandemic. GM Auto and Truck Repair Plus will soon become a family business as his son Chris takes over. But his business banking relationship has always been like family.
“Merchants is always there for me. They never let you down.”12:03 pm
Shown in photo L to R: Loni Floyd and Jodi Hopper, Loft 212
A popular venue to celebrate the big day, began on an ordinary day when Jodi and Loni walked into downtown Cullman’s historic Cotton Warehouse and Mule Trade building. The rustic soaring interiors that once held bales of cotton and mules, seemed perfect to hold weddings, proms, and events. They discovered a spacious upper floor, once used to store cotton bales and a truck entrance that would become a picturesque courtyard. “We fell in love with the place,” remembers Jodi. “We had been wanting to do something and this was it.” They put a lot of thought and prayer into how to turn the warehouse into an event venue, they just needed a bank to put their faith in two 30 something couples with a plan.
The bank they had a personal banking relationship with, didn’t share their enthusiasm, as rustic warehouses being thought of as event venues was still new. Luckily, they knew several Merchants bankers, who saw their business model had potential. Merchants Bank of Alabama, a division of SouthPoint Bank, worked with them as they renovated the loft venue and built their clientele. Loft 212 is now a popular choice for those getting married or getting together for reunions, proms and corporate events and draws customers from across Alabama. According to Loni, “Being part of someone’s special day is the best part of our business.” At Merchants, being able to make the day of one of our local business customers, is the best part of ours.
“It took a lot to give us that kind of money. Merchants had faith in us.”11:59 am
Shown in photo L to R: Greg Brown, Tommy Cost and David Brown of American Classics
In 1994 David Brown knew he was tired of being on the road selling insurance. That’s when a $108 investment in novelty neckties sparked a new direction. He and his mother, who sold novelties at a flea market on weekends were shocked when the neckties quickly sold out, and he was sold on a new business idea. He then opened a kiosk in a Birmingham mall to sell more neckties and branched out into licensed neckties for pro football teams, Star Wars, Andy Griffith and other licenses. The kiosk soon expanded to his own storefront in the mall selling licensed merchandise printed with popular brands, icons, movies, sports and TV and more.
When it became difficult to get enough licensed T-shirts from a supplier, David bought the rights to the Andy Griffith Show through Viacom to print his own. This would eventually lead to acquiring the rights to other iconic TV shows and movies from licensing giants such as Warner Brothers, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox and others. During this growth stage, David’s brothers Greg Brown and Tommy Cost, joined the American Classics team. The three of them found ways and invested in ideas to make the company grow. A sales rep encouraged them to add wholesaling to their business model. Soon after, the brothers started printing T-shirts and merchandise for major retailers such as J.C. Penney’s, Kohls and others. Today, American Classics, Inc. services retailers spanning North America. Retailers such as Urban Outfitters, Gap, Buckle, Old Navy, Kohls and many more, all carry American Classics licensed t-shirts.
Though neckties were a thing of the past, the brothers relied on the bank ties with Merchants Bank of Alabama, a division of SouthPoint Bank, who has grown with them. Merchants, where David has banked for 30 years, made the loans for new equipment and then a building loan for a new facility. “Merchants is like family. They make the process so easy,” he said. “I can make a call on Monday and have the funds I need very quickly.” The American Classics staff has grown to 60 employees, including in house artists. When American Classics needed Small Business Administrative PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loans to avoid layoffs during the COVID pandemic, he called Merchants. When the pandemic shifted so many retailers’ business plans, E Commerce sales began to explode through online E-Tailers such as Amazon. David built the business by understanding the appeal of a true classic. That’s why he chose the classic local banking model he found at Merchants Bank.
“The business grew out of neck ties at a flea market. Merchants has always been loyal to us, and we are loyal to them.”
Shown in photo L to R: Jason and Stephanie Neal, Duchess Bakery.
The Duchess Bakery had been part of the sweet side of life in Cullman for 81 years since it opened on 1st Ave SE in 1939. As word spread that the owner, Larry Bontrager, was planning to retire in May of 2020, people lined up early to get a last taste of the donuts that had made the bakery a local legend. That morning Jason Neal got in line at 6:30 am to buy donuts for his family and when Larry came out, Jason told him on an impulse he was interested in buying the bakery. Larry told him to put his name on the back of a business card, and drop it in a bowl with the other 50 or so names.
Jason and his wife Stephanie have owned a local Dairy Queen since 2006 and Jason owns a local insurance agency. With their entrepreneurial spirit others in the community including his daughter had already mentioned to Jason that they should buy Duchess Bakery. Luckily a local businessman handling the sale for Larry was a family friend and recommended the Neals be put on the short list. When the Neals were finally chosen as buyers, Jason approached his good friend and business associate Roger Rich about becoming a partner. After buying not only the bakery and the famous donut recipe, they found themselves owners of a Cullman institution.
Jason, Stephanie and Roger are putting their own touches on the local hotspot by adding a line of premium coffee blends named after their children, as well as merchandise from hats to T-shirts and coffee mugs with the bakery’s logo. But their main reason for buying the bakery goes much deeper. “In times like these, people need something good to hold onto,” Jason said. “Merchants Bank had always been a part of our family, and I have banked with them my entire banking life.” The Neals knew many Merchants Bank of Alabama, a division of SouthPoint Bank, bankers, and knew they understood the value of Duchess Bakery to Cullman.
“Duchess has been a mainstay in our city for generations, just like Merchants. Local businesses help local businesses. That way we all grow.”August 24, 2017 8:34 pm
Everyone loves your homemade BBQ sauce, and you’ve started to wonder if you could actually create a business out of it. You learn about your potential market, create a business plan, develop your brand, work out the costs, find a location, and then what? More than likely you’re going to need a small business loan.
There’s no better place than to look to your local community bank. Community banks like Merchants Bank of Alabama, a division of SouthPoint Bank, tend to focus on the needs of the businesses and families where the bank holds branches and offices. They are also typically locally owned and operated meaning they know you, your family and how your business idea will fit into the local economy. And, perhaps the main benefit is that lending decisions are made by people who understand the local needs of families, businesses and farmers.
Two years ago, when we launched our new website, we set out to develop tools that would help our local small business customers. How are we different? What sets us apart? We knew that our local lenders connected us to our communities in very powerful ways that big banks can’t touch. That’s why we created a section on our site called Lender Connect. Here you can meet our local lenders and easily connect with them via phone or email. You can also get to know these local lenders by reading their bios. You’ll quickly see that the majority of them not only live here, but were born and raised here.
Merchants has developed real partnerships with local businesses and you can read about some of our local business success stories in the Way To Go section of our web site. Eight very different local small businesses with one thing in common. A bank with an uncommon commitment to our local small business customers. Read the stories and you’ll get the inside scoop on how we helped these remarkable business owners in Cullman, Hanceville, Fairview and Arab go from having a big dream to having a big following. Because community banks are themselves small businesses, they understand the needs of small business owners. Their core concern is lending to small businesses and farms and they make over half of all small business loans.
Get to know the local businesses near you. No matter what their product or service, their focus is delivering the best in customer service, just like their local bank does. From local restaurants and volunteer fire departments to a variety of retail establishments, we set out to build real relationships with our business customers.
Small business loans are available from a large number of traditional and alternative lenders. Small business loans can help your business grow, expand into new territories, enhance sales and marketing efforts, allow you to hire new people, and much more.
So, if you need to secure your first small business loan or to expand a current business, we invite you to start with your local community bank. Reach out to the lender nearest you, preferably via our Lender Connect portal. To give you even more information, we are sharing an article from a recent issue of Forbes, “10 Key Steps To Getting A Small Business Loan”. By anticipating what lenders will review and require, you will greatly increase your chances of obtaining a beneficial small business loan.