Investar looks beyond its IPO _lowres

Investar Bank went public in 2014 and CEO John D'Angelo rang the opening bell for Nasdaq. Now Investar Bank has a national bank charter. 

Baton Rouge-based Investar Holding Corp.'s financial services arm, Investar Bank, had its application to convert to a national bank charter approved by the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Louisiana Office of Financial Institutions. 

Investar Bank holds a state bank charter and is slated to be converted on July 1. The bank has plans to hopes to expand further outside of Louisiana and become a regional financial institution. It has been testing the waters for an expansion in other states. A national charter gives it a bit more flexibility in some ways, but also exposes it to federal regulators as opposed to state regulators, which in some cases means more red tape. 

John D'Angelo is the CEO of Investar Bank. D'Angelo sees opportunity in New Orleans, especially since smaller community banks have been sold in recent years. Investar expects to build two new branches in New Orleans over the next 12 months — one on St. Charles Avenue under renovation and the other on Metairie Road. The bank also is building a new branch in downtown Lafayette. It has been hiring new employees in recent years and poached a commercial lending group from another bank in St. Charles. It also is installing an interactive teller machine in St. Charles in addition to a new branch location. In that case, the automated ATM was installed first as a pilot for the branch investment afterwards. 

In Baton Rouge, it is wrapping up a $400,000 renovation of a branch along Highland Road, just south of LSU. In total, over a two-year period, the bank expects to invest $6 million in the new and renovated branches across Louisiana. 

The bank's leadership sees brick and mortar as a way to leverage its brand after it has established relationships with businesses in each market. 

"Our strategy is to lead with technology and build small and less brick and mortar," according to a statement from the bank. "Customers still want brick and mortar, just do not need as many locations." 

Investar Bank is a mostly commercial lending institution, reporting net income of $3.9 million during the first quarter this year, up from $2.4 million during first-quarter 2018. It acquired Mainland Bank in Texas City, Texas, in a nearly $20 million deal that closed in recent months. Future market expansions in Texas may be among larger metros such as Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, according to the bank. 

"We plan on building out a Texas franchise over time," a bank representative said in a statement. 

Investar Bank had total assets of nearly $2 billion as of March 31, records show. It had 255 employees as of Dec. 31 and has grown significantly since it was founded in June 2006 with an initial capitalization of $10.1 million from local investors. It went public in 2014 and raised $40 million from its initial public offering. 

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