2 min read May 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Jeff Mylton, market president of HomeTrust Bank, discussed the institution’s strategies and embrace of technology in serving its clients. “We don’t need a branch on every corner and have been looking for something centralized, visible and prominent to show we are here to stay,” Mylton said.
What have been your major takeaways from the past year?
It has been a challenging year but also one of our best. Although we haven’t been able to meet face-to-face with clients as much as we would prefer, we have made it easy to transact business through Zoom and other technological platforms. In Charlotte, real estate activity has been out of control. From South End to Uptown, high prices are being paid and construction has had to focus on high rise towers because the land is now so expensive. On the residential side, builders cannot find enough lots to build on and housing prices keep going up. I remember doing an apartment project five years ago and thinking this bubble has to burst soon, but instead, it has probably grown five times that since. I do feel for the restaurants as they have been hit hard. But those that have been able to adapt have done well. When it comes to offices, a lot of companies are having to weigh the savings of downsizing their space with work from home becoming so prevalent, versus the collaborative environment that having everyone in the office provides. I believe the latter will win out and we will see more people back in the office sooner than later.
What is HomeTrust Bank’s strategy for brick-and-mortar locations as many banking footprints are downsizing?
We have focused on strategic building in the region. We have opened a new branch in Raleigh, a regional headquarters in South Park and will finish a new two-story regional location for the Lake area in Cornelius. We don’t need a branch on every corner and have been focusing on locations that are centralized for an area, with visibility and enough prominence to demonstrate that we are here to stay. From a branding standpoint, the brick and mortars give you visibility in the community, and while that is important, remote banking has become the optimal way for most customers to do their banking.
We all know, people are not going to banks as much anymore, except for specialized needs such as mortgages, car loans, investment discussions or opening an account, where face to face interaction is important. From a commercial standpoint, our customers do not care as much where we are located. We bank some companies that have locations all over the state. They will open an account with whatever local bank is at that location and then they consolidate and manage their funds electronically from those banks with us. There needs to be a middle ground to both operate efficiently and meet the needs of our clients.
How has HomeTrust Bank been able to navigate the low interest rate environment?
It is a given that interest rates are going to go up. They have been so low for so long that it almost feels like free money much of the time. What concerns banks is that if financing for a company works at these interest rates, companies are inclined to think these will be the rates long term. But if the rates go up, will the cash flow still justify what they are spending? You have to be conservative enough to make sure the company can afford a rate rise. But this market is so competitive that if you are not willing to do something for that company, another bank will. There is a teeter-totter between risk and production. It is a challenge because we all expect that rates will go up at least 50 basis points this year, so we must model accordingly.
From a supply chain standpoint, there are all sorts of disruptions. At our Cornelius office that is under construction, we have had delays on mortar, electrical panels, items that you would consider to be basic needs. Before our office moved to South Park, we had a potential tenant do a walkthrough of our previous space. They asked us if the furniture could stay, because they knew that ordering new furniture would take months to deliver and delay their ability to move. It was a glaring realization that simple things are not that simple anymore.
What is your assessment of financial literacy today?
It has improved. We have a mortgage officer whose sole job is to go out and work with different organizations to try and help people who want to buy a home, learn how to do it. It is the first-time buyer program many organizations support. People need resources and guidance to understand what is necessary to buy. Owning a home is getting harder as prices rise, so we are working with younger buyers on strategies, and saving methods, so they will understand how they could qualify for a loan and provide them with knowledge and processes to help them learn as they go. It is something you must teach, and we are happy to provide that as a resource.
What is your outlook for HomeTrust Bank and the Charlotte financial sector over the next two to three years?
I am very positive as we continue our strategic growth. We are fortunate to primarily follow the I-85/I40 corridors and serve the cities that have had good growth markets with strong economies. Being in the Southeast is a huge advantage. From an organizational standpoint, we can be a resource for businesses that are poised to succeed and help them with their growth. It is such a competitive environment in every industry. Sometimes taking on too much risk and spending like wildfire could burn a business down the road. There is so much capital on the sidelines because of the pandemic, and businesses will need to be calculated and balanced in how they spend it. We are here to be a consultative resource for them.
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