FirstBank makes move into Alabama

Community lender recruits Regions, BBVA alum to build on existing mortgage business

FirstBank is preparing to open its first full-service branch outside Tennessee state lines and has recruited a former Regions Bank and BBVA Compass executive to lead the effort.

Lexington, Tenn.-based FirstBank has filed an application to turn the office of its mortgage division south of downtown Huntsville, Ala., into a full-service branch. The regulatory review and approval process is expected to take another 30 to 45 days.

The bank, which was founded in 1906 and the leaders of which are based in downtown Nashville, also has hired Jim Owens to lead a full-service team it wants to grow to about 10 in the coming months. Until earlier this month, Owens, pictured here, was a senior vice president at BBVA Compass, the U.S. arm of Spanish giant Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria. He had joined that bank in early 2008 and before that led, among other things, the North Alabama operations of Regions.

“Huntsville is a vibrant market, and we see tremendous opportunity there,” said FirstBank President and CEO Chris Holmes. “This move represents a significant step in our strategic growth plans. We look forward to building our customer base in Huntsville and increasing our presence in the community.”

FirstBank Mortgage Partners has been doing business from two offices in the Huntsville market since June 2011, when its parent bought Henger Rast Mortgage Corp., which had operations in Alabama and Georgia. The mortgage subsidiary does business in six other states.

FirstBank has more than $2.2 billion in assets and booked a 2013 profit of $28.0 million, up from $25.1 million the year before.