Prime Meridian Bank
Banking done right … right away
Business View Magazine interviews Sammie Dixon, Jr., President & CEO of Prime Meridian Bank, for our focus on Top Community Banks in America.
Floridians in Tallahassee, Crawfordville, and Lakeland, Florida have discovered a new way of banking since Prime Meridian Bank emerged on the scene a little over ten years ago. The Bank’s culture and way of working with clients is truly unlike any other.
Prime Meridian Bank is client-focused and driven by a team that has redefined what it means to be a true community bank. The Bank’s approach emphasizes personal attention, hospitality, client care, and the art of giving back. Combined with state-of-the-art technology and innovation, Prime Meridian Bank has created a model that supports the success of clients as they pursue their financial personal or business goals.
Is this approach working? It is according to the numbers and to Sammie D. Dixon Jr., Vice Chairman, President and CEO of the Bank and its holding company, Prime Meridian Holding Company. The Bank is one of the fastest growing of any in Leon County, its home and headquarters since it was founded.
Dixon was instrumental in the formation of Prime Meridian Bank which opened its doors February 4, 2008 – an interesting time to start a Bank given the financial crisis of the time. The premise for starting the Bank: Dixon’s belief that a new community bank with the proper culture could succeed in Tallahassee by offering a different brand of banking.
Dixon explains, “The Bank was established solely through the lens of our culture and a one-word question: ‘Why?’ From the start, any member of the team can ask why and we will always do our best to answer them. If we cannot answer the question, there may be an opportunity for us to improve or change. We believe in transparency and we promote direct communication rather than an org chart filled with silos.”
“CEOs are usually very close to the vest about what they are doing,” Dixon adds. “My philosophy is: if you share with the team and clearly express your vision and direction, then they can execute much better. Our mindset is to think of a few good reasons why it can be done. Is it right by the client? Is it right by the Bank? Is it legally, morally, ethically correct? If the answers are ‘yes,’ then there’s really nothing we can’t do. If the answer is ‘no’ then we back up to see what is needed to make this work.”
Dixon admits, “In banking there are always some things you can’t do. What matters to clients is that we take that individual approach. We do not sell products, we grow relationships. That is the way we got the Bank started and that is one of our keys to success.”
In December 2013, Prime Meridian Bank became a public company. With assets of $602 million as of June 30, 2020, Dixon has aspirations to grow to a multi-billion-dollar bank. And, he says, “we’re going to do it our way.” Dixon saw first-hand the approaches used by other local and regional banks – banks that are now his competition. He began his career in 1997 with NationsBank and, until 2007, held various positions, including CEO, in other regional banks in Florida and South Georgia. With those experiences behind him, it is not surprising he eventually decided to start his own bank.
Having spent some time on Florida’s Gulf Coast, just south of Tallahassee, he felt the Capital of the Sunshine State was an obvious location. He recalls, “So, I met with two accountants in town, told them I was going to start a bank and asked them to be on the Board and they agreed. I was CEO. Chris Jensen, whom I worked with at Regions Bank, came on as our Senior Lender. We did it as a partnership and then added Kathy Jones (formerly of SunTrust) as our CFO.”
Prime Meridian Bank is, above all, client-focused to the point it has created a Brand Book, in-house, that tells the story of its culture. The book is not a marketing piece – it’s for the team – though it is one of the most requested documents when Dixon speaks with others about the Bank. The book illustrates every aspect of why the Bank does what it does and includes examples and principles learned along the way. Its mission statement – “Building bankers to serve our clients and community in order to optimize shareholder value” – guides decision-making.
Each initiative is evaluated with respect to its five core principles – passion, grace, integrity, tenacity, and accountability. “Our secret sauce is very simple,” says Dixon. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We know there are other banks down the road, so we are all about the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Every endeavor has to pass through our own value “filters” before we move forward. If we take care of our culture and relationships with clients, the growth will take care of itself.”
According to Dixon the Bank’s team members are one of the Bank’s most important assets. Now consisting of just under 100 employees, the Bank serves clients from four Florida offices: two in Tallahassee, one in Crawfordville, and one in Lakeland.
Even in an industry so dependent upon technology, Prime Meridian Bank realizes that good banking is still a product of having the right people. Dixon emphasizes, “We are committed to diversity, which means we work to create an environment where differences are respected, and each of us can do our best work and achieve our highest potential.”
He reminds prospective team members looking to join the Bank that, “Prime Meridian Bank is not for everybody. Our intensity and tenacity levels remain high, all the time. We don’t sit down and pat ourselves on the back. Complacency is one of the greatest destroyers of companies.”
For Dixon, staying competitive is essential. In that regard, Prime Meridian Bank has embraced the latest technology – remote capture, mobile deposits, online banking, ACH, top-level security and training – everything for the security and convenience of its clients. “These are opportunity costs that you just have to have,” he says.
“It is all about relationship building and taking care of people,” Dixon continues. “Our philosophy, when it comes to taking care of a client, is not selling them a product, it is looking at their needs from a holistic standpoint because every situation is different. Our goal is to grow bigger and be more profitable. I never give anybody a timeline on how big we’re going to be and when. So, we hurry up to wait; getting everything prepared we can think of and then wait for the right opportunity.”
He adds, “For us, the definition of luck is nothing more than preparation plus opportunity. We want to be in communities in south Georgia, south Alabama, and just south of Lakeland, Florida. But it all comes back to having the right people. We’ll go where we can find the right folks that fit with us.”
Prime Meridian Bank is an up-and-coming bank in a very regulated industry. Management values and pursues all available information to make its decisions. Dixon notes, “If we make a wrong decision, we raise our hands and quickly adjust. Our goal is to be directionally correct.” Internally, the Bank’s philosophy is “new information, new decision” and so Prime Meridian Bank is constantly tweaking anything that needs changing.
Dixon believes, “No one has the perfect road map for building a bank, or any company, for that matter. There are a lot of ways to go. We’ve had an average compound growth rate of 22.2 percent since 2015 which is pretty remarkable for a bank. We are driven by purpose: banking done right, right away. For us these are not just words – they are how we get things done.”
AT A GLANCE
Prime Meridian Bank
WHAT: Friendly, diverse community bank
WHERE: Headquarters in Tallahassee, Florida