Equity Bank to grow in Kansas

09/07/2011 12:00 AM

09/07/2011 12:08 AM

Brad Elliott's plans to make Equity Bank a bigger presence in the state moved forward after the Wichita bank said Tuesday it will expand into two northeast Kansas cities.

Elliott, Equity's CEO and chairman, said his bank plans to merge University National Bank in Lawrence into Equity.

Equity also will acquire the four Topeka branches of Citizens Bank & Trust in Chillicothe, Mo.

"We've signed two different agreements to acquire two different institutions," Elliott said.

Both deals will give Equity a larger presence in the state. Besides Wichita, the $485-million-asset bank has offices in the Kansas City area as well as Hays.

The deals will "increase our footprint in eastern Kansas," Elliott said Tuesday.

"We think the eastern corridor from Topeka to Kansas City is an economically expanding area. And as the recovery continues, that part of the state, along with Wichita and Hays, will be positioned to grow," he said.

Elliott said the two deals will put Equity at $700 million in assets and increase its statewide branch network to 15 offices.

University National operates from a single location with about 20 employees and $87 million in assets. Elliott said the bank's CEO, Todd Sutherland, will remain with what will be Equity's Lawrence branch.

Sutherland, who has lived in Lawrence for 23 years, founded the bank in 1988.

"I think it was the opportunity to work with a growing, Kansas-based community bank that is forward looking and well capitalized," Sutherland said of the transaction.

He added the merger will give University National customers a broader package of bank products and services.

The Topeka branches that Equity will acquire from Citizens have about $115 million in deposits and 18 employees, Elliott said.

The branches also are the legacy branches of Columbian Bank & Trust, which failed in August 2008. Citizens acquired Columbian's assets after regulators failed it.

Citizen's CEO Roger Arwood said in a news release that the sale of the branches "is part of our organization's ongoing effort to reallocate capital and resources to support both our near- and long-term strategic goals."

Elliott said he expects closing on both deals to occur before the end of the year, pending regulatory approval.

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