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Southern Bancorp CEO, Darrin Williams, and Southern Bancorp Community Partners COO, Karama Neal, joined CDFI leaders from across the Southeast on Monday to discuss opportunities and strategies for financial institutions working to serve economically distressed and financially underserved communities.

Darrin Williams speaks at Federal Reserve Bank of Atlants

Darrin Williams speaks on a panel at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s recent conference, CDFI Banks in the Southeast: Embracing Opportunities and Addressing Challenge

The event, CDFI Banks in the Southeast: Embracing Opportunities and Addressing Challenges, was hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta and featured speakers such as Annie Donovan, Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s CDFI Fund; Michael Johnson, Executive Vice President of Bank Supervision and Regulation for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; and Sylvia Plunkett, Senior Deputy Director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

As part of a panel discussing CDFI business strategies for the future, Williams discussed Southern Bancorp’s own approach to building a cohesive brand both outside and within Southern’s walls that effectively serves its customer and client base now, while also laying the groundwork for serving their future needs.

“At Southern Bancorp, we focus on three main strategies for growing our business: proactively investing in technologies to reach bank customers and clients, creating innovative engagement strategies that inform and promote our company culture, and developing new ways to tell our story to a wide variety of audiences,” said Williams. “Together, these strategies can effectively create a nimble, cohesive and informative brand that serves a customer’s needs both where they are and where they are going to be.”

Karama Neal spoke about how Southern uniquely fulfills its mission to create economic opportunity in underserved and economically distressed communities by combining the efforts of a CDFI Bank and a CDFI Loan Fund.

“Many of the communities we serve experience high rates of poverty, high numbers of unbanked and underbanked individuals, and high outmigration rates, which collectively create unique challenges to creating financial stability and economic mobility,” said Neal. “Southern Bancorp’s unique structure of both a CDFI Bank and a CDFI Loan Fund, that also provides financial development services, allows us to provide the ground level services that are frequently needed to bring someone into the financial mainstream, such as counseling and education, while also being able to provide the next step services such as entrepreneurial training and lending that often comes later.”

All three of Southern Bancorp’s entities, Southern Bancorp, Inc.; Southern Bancorp Bank; and Southern Bancorp Community Partners are certified by the U.S. Treasury as Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs). On the web at