Tennessee Commerce buyer looks to launch branch network

Republic focused more on retail clients; local unit posts nice Q4 profit

The Kentucky bank holding company that a year ago acquired Tennessee Commerce Bank is looking to raise its profile in Williamson County after cleaning up many of the credit issues it took on.

Kevin Sipes, CFO of $3 billion Republic Bancorp, said his team — led locally by former First Citizens market leader John Bennett — could open two retail locations by the end of this year. One of those, he said, is likely to replace the bank's offices on Mallory Station Road. That location, which had housed Tennessee Commerce since its launch in 2000, was never designed to be a retail draw.

Sipes said Republic generally leads with its mortgage and other retail products, which require a greater general brand awareness than the bank's new locations are expected to contribute.

"They will likely not be free-standing but more in strip centers and similar locations," Sipes said.

Bennett's pending expansion comes after Republic's Tennessee operations — which have about $75 million in deposits — posted a fourth-quarter pre-tax profit of $556,000. That number, Sipes said, was inflated a bit because of the low cost basis of (and the fair-value markdowns made to) the assets acquired in late January 2012. Nailing down just what the local unit can consistently contribute to the bottom line might take a few more quarters.