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Magnolia State Bank: Small town banking with a focus on the customer

By ALAN TURNER

Following the passing of founder Thomas Brown, Magnolia State Bank named Lillous Shoemaker as its President. Lillous grew up in Bay Springs, graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, got her law degree from Ole Miss, an LLM from New York University, then lived in New York for 2 years before returning to her home town to practice law with her father.“I truly love Bay Springs,” she told me during a recent conversation. “It was really quite an easy decision to come back home, and I’ve never looked back.”

Returning to Bay Springs in 2005, she practiced family, estate, and criminal law, and ultimately became a City Judge. In 2014, she joined Magnolia as general counsel, and now, looks forward to service as the institution’s president.

Describing herself as “a dedicated Mom”, she dotes on her 2 sons, ages 4 and 8, but also truly enjoys her work at the bank.

Lillous Shoemaker

Lillous Shoemaker

“We’re truly like a big family,” she said. “We know and love our customers, and we’ve been serving their families for 40 years now, since Mr. Brown founded Magnolia.”

From its beginnings, the bank has grown steadily through the years, and today boasts assets of $305 million and branches in Bay Springs, Laurel, Petal, and Hattiesburg. As the current headquarters, Magnolia’s Bay Springs offices employ 40 people, with 87 total employees among the various branches.

They’re currently in the planning stages for a second branch in Laurel, and clearly, the objective is to capitalize on the small town flavor of their history. They also see good opportunities down the road in Hattiesburg and surrounding area.

“We’re very happy in the markets we’ve worked hard to develop through the years,” she said. “We’re not looking to be a ‘big city bank’ that loses touch with its customers, but to stay engaged with the folks we live in the towns where we do business.”

Lillous suggests that the key to Magnolia’s success rests on three important principles, namely, “First and foremost, satisfy your customers; second, keep your employees happy and motivated; and finally, love what you do.”

As a woman who has clearly developed a strong career, she told me that she feels “blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunities I have.”

“You may not always get what you want, and what you get may not always be what you might have expected or anticipated, but if you set strong goals and work hard, you’ll be successful,” she said. “For instance, I would probably never have envisioned myself as a banker, and yet, today I’m a banker and delighted to have this opportunity.”

Among other things, she sees her experience in law as a highly valuable asset.

“With the growing burden of government regulation, it’s always a challenge to stay ahead of the curve,” she said. “With my experience, I am confident I can manage those challenges.”

She expressed regret that some of those regulations inevitably fall on the shoulders of consumers, especially in the area of home buying, where increased paperwork and processing mean higher costs for buyers, longer times to close a mortgage, and more scrutiny of the process.

“Our job is to help minimize those challenges for our customers,” she said.

She may be a dedicated career professional, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know how to have fun.

“My kids and I love Legos, and we made a trip to Legoland recently, where we all had a ball,” she said. She also  enjoys “grilling out, travel, and time with family and friends.”

All things considered, it would seem that Lillous Shoemaker is an ideal choice to serve as Magnolia’s President, and that her objectives are very much in synch with the bank’s.

“We want to be the best small town bank in the world,” she said. Many of her customers would probably agree that that’s just fine with them.

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