SmartFinancial, Progressive announce merger, sale plans

by Susan Newby

Knoxville-based SmartFinancial, Inc. and Progressive Financial Group recently announced an agreement and merger plan in which SmartFinancial will acquire Progressive.

With six branches across Cookeville, Crossville, Jamestown and Wartburg, Progressive has approximately $296 million in assets, $258 million in deposits and $190 million in loans.

With the acquisition subject to customary closing conditions, including the approval of Progressive shareholders and the receipt of all necessary regulatory approvals, the acquisition is expected to be completed in the first half of 2020.

The proposed transaction would bolster SmartFinancial’s Tennessee presence and (based on June 30, 2019, market share) make it the seventh largest community bank by deposits in the state, with total consolidated assets of $2.7 billion.

Progressive Financial Group CEO Ottis Phillips said he did not expect any significant changes over the next six months, noting Progressive already operates “fairly consistently” with SmartFinancial’s ways.

“We want to be a billion-dollar bank in 10 years. We’ve been very successful growing organically, but we need more capital to achieve our goals,” Phillips said.

“SmartBank is young, aggressive and well-managed. They were recently recognized as one of Fortune’s 100 fastest growing public companies in the nation, and I’ve been really impressed with them. It just seems to fit.

“We’re still the same bank, the same service, the same individuals,” Phillips stressed. We will just have more tools and ways to serve our customers and make their life easier. SmartBank has community banking roots. They place an emphasis on local programs and activities, being visible in the community.”

Phillips noted that SmartBank will bring beneficial technology for banking customers, such as mobile deposits. In additional, he said Progressive’s lending power will more than double with SmartBank’s size, allowing them to do business with much larger companies.

Another notable change is the fact that Progressive’s insurance division, The Rains Company, will be folded into SmartBank as the company’s first foray into the insurance field.

Still being determined is how other entities under the Progressive umbrella, such as Cravens and Company Advisors and Progressive Tax and Accounting, will be impacted by the proposed SmartFinancial acquisition.

Phillips stressed that while waiting on the plan’s final hurdles to be cleared, he wants to hear from customers about any concerns they have.

“Come and see us with questions. We want you (the customer) to be comfortable with this transaction,” he said.

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