Darrin Williams is the CEO of Southern Bancorp, Inc., one of America’s oldest and largest community development financial institutions (CDFIs). It has $2.5 billion in assets, more than 65,000 customers, and 56 locations around and throughout the Delta region.
Southern Bancorp believes that wealth building isn’t just for the wealthy; they seek to be wealth builders for everyone. Williams’ job as CEO is simple; he issues loans and works in underserved communities in parts of Arkansas and Mississippi. Despite being told often that he is running a nonprofit bank, he told Forbes that he still needs to make money.
“If we’re a nonprofit bank, we’re doing a bad job. We have to be profitable … If there’s no margin, it doesn’t matter what our mission is,” according to Williams.
He said his bank brings certain benefits and obligations that traditional banks do not have. Southern Bancorp has a nonprofit loan fund apart from having the bank and holding company on the for-profit side.
It got more support from the federal government and mainstream banks following the murder of George Floyd as well as the pandemic. Entrepreneurial activity and opportunities in underserved communities have also increased since that time, Forbes said.
This makes Williams optimistic that he will double the bank’s $2.5 billion in assets over the next five years, according to Forbes. “In part, that means building on its base of serving mainly rural communities—where 71% of its 56 branches are now located—to expand its focus to underserved urban communities, such as Little Rock’s 12th Street corridor,” the business magazine noted.
Williams is also going to focus on more affluent clients like those who want to give their money to businesses that share their values while fighting against “exploitative payday lenders.”
“In the state of Mississippi, there are more storefront payday lenders than there are McDonald’s, Burger King (outlets), and Starbucks combined,” he said.
Williams, a former legislator and securities and consumer protection attorney, received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hendrix College and his Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt University School of Law, according to his bio. The banker also earned his Master of Laws in securities and financial regulation from Georgetown University Law Center.