South Louisiana Bank — A Pearl in the Parish
by Terry Trahan, Jr.
Weathered coins clank in the background as a local dressed in a white T-shirt and denim jeans walks up to the teller’s counter to make a transaction. He wipes the sweat off his brow before handing his check to the woman across from him. In the lobby, spacious enough to feel right at home, a family gathers on a leather couch to discuss a transfer of inheritance from father to child. In the center of the open space, behind the teller’s counter, Chuck Weaver meets with a customer in his glass-enclosed office, complete with a view of the open network of halls surrounding it.
“I love doing what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with and where I’m doing it,” says Chuck, president and CEO of South Louisiana Bank, a local business that celebrates its 30th anniversary on June 30.
The bank’s main office on Tunnel Boulevard now boasts 25,000 square feet of floor space, but it hasn’t always been that roomy. In 1980, the business started in what Chuck describes as a 1,900-square-foot double-wide trailer near the front of the 3-acre property the bank sits on today.
Chuck, along with Warren H. Bourgeois and Vernon Myers, had decided to open a new local bank after leaving their positions at First National Bank. Together, they raised $2 million in equity, established a charter with the state and hired eight employees to get the business off the ground.
1362 West Tunnel Blvd.
Houma, LA 70360
East Side Branch
1308 Grand Caillou Rd.
Houma, LA 70363
West Side Branch
6405 West Park Avenue
Houma, LA 70364
South Terrebonne Branch
4343 Hwy. 24
Bourg, LA 70343
Little Bayou Black Branch
3916 Hwy. 311
Houma, LA 70360
Bayou Blue Branch
2010 Bayou Blue Rd.
Houma, LA 70364
South Louisiana Financial
315 S. Hollywood Rd.
Houma, LA 70360
“When we built here, we were one of the first businesses to build on the Tunnel extension,” Chuck says. “We were like pioneers.”
South Louisiana Bank’s stockholders elected a board of directors, who worked to attract customers to the business. The bank grew for the first two years and developed plans for a new 2-story, 12,000-square-foot building, which opened its doors in 1982.
The rest of the 1980s became a test of survival as an unhealthy oilfield led to poor economic conditions in south Louisiana. By 1986, the bank lost earnings as competing local banks dissolved. Determined to avoid the same fate, the board of directors decided to end a merger agreement with the Hibernia Corp., thereby allowing the bank to retain its local roots.
“With great pride, there is no bank that was in business in Terrebonne Parish in 1980 that is still in business today,” Chuck says. “By being the oldest local community bank, we’re entrenched in the community and want to see it succeed.”
South Louisiana Bank has helped to do just that.
Ron “Black” Guidry remembers receiving a call from Chuck 21 years ago, urging him to start his own business with help from the bank.
“I personally called Black and suggested he go in the swamp tour business because he would be a natural success for it,” Chuck says. “We loaned him his first dollar.”
Black, known as a Cajun musician, purchased a 49-passenger boat with a $40,000 loan and started A Cajun Man’s Swamp Cruise.
“It incorporates my entertaining with the swamp tour,” Black says. “We’re quite proud of our business.”
As a spokesperson for the business that gave him his start, Black married his trademark “Ayeee!” to South Louisiana Bank, promoting the bank’s heritage.
“It really is a neighborhood bank,” he says. “They sure took care of me.”
South Louisiana Bank took care of a lot of local business developers as the ‘90s rolled in.
That’s because Terrebonne Parish’s economic climate changed as dark financial clouds moved out, allowing the sun to shine once again. For the bank, the decade introduced an expansion in branches and development in products. In 1992, the East Side branch opened its doors, reaching new communities in the parish for the first time. Three years later, the debit card gave customers a new financial weapon to use at checkout counters.
By 2000, the bank completed construction of a 13,000-square-foot addition to the main office on Tunnel Boulevard, bringing the total square footage to 25,000. As earnings and assets continued to reach record numbers over the next four years, South Louisiana Bank acquired the Smith Insurance Agency, renaming it South Louisiana Financial Services, an insurance benefit company.
The bank won the Houma-Terrebonne Chamber of Commerce’s Large Business of the Year award in 2005 for a reason. It strives to provide the parish with personal, professional financial services while keeping the monetary flow within the community.
Bauer Financial, a leading independent bank rating firm, recognizes excellence when it sees it as well. For the past 16 years, the firm has awarded South Louisiana Bank with its highest 5-star rating for exceptional performance.
While maintaining an exceptional local business remains a priority, the employees set aside their penny counting every once in a while to maintain a lighthearted atmosphere.
“When I came in for my birthday, everybody in the bank was dressed in Western attire and played cowboy songs all day,” Chuck says about the May 22 prank, one of many the bank has seen through the years. “It’s when you least expect it. That’s what makes it fun.”
South Louisiana Bank has far outgrown the trailer’s walls that housed its operation in 1980. Thirty years, six full-service branches and 150 employees later, Chuck believes there is no reason for locals to bank anywhere else.
“I’ve been in banking 40 years, and I’m still passionate about the bank and helping people,” says the CEO, whose locations brim with dedicated employees. “It’s not an ‘I’ bank; it’s a ‘we’ bank. It’s a team effort.”