We present here our first class of Louisianians of the Year. In doing so we defined some key categories: Conservationist, Visual Artist, Civic Activist, Educator, Celebrity, Chef, Musician and Entrepreneur. There are other important, higher profile categories that we could have looked at – politics and sports being among them – but these chosen eight represent to us an impressive cross-section of local creativity. Thanks to all of them for their good works; thanks to all of you for providing an active state in which those works can be appreciated.
Banker / Lafayette
A little bank that could and did – with help from the CEO.
Recent years have not been good ones for banks around the country. A slow economy and rising loan problems took a toll on many institutions. But Louisiana banks have fared better, and one based in Cajun Country has been a standout.
The reasons for the success of Lafayette-based IBERIABANK are many, but most of them boil down to one name: Daryl Byrd.
The president and chief executive officer of IBERIABANK joined the company in 1999 after cutting his teeth on institutions owned by First Commerce Corp. in Lafayette and Alexandria. When First Commerce was purchased by Chicago-based Bank One, Byrd landed a new job as Bank One’s top executive in the New Orleans region. But he didn’t stay for long.
“The title sounded great, but what we had to do every day wasn’t all that much fun,” he recalls.
What did appeal to Byrd was the idea of heading a smaller bank and competing, David versus Goliath-style, with Bank One and large Louisiana banks such as Hibernia and Whitney. The opportunity to do exactly that arose when directors of IBERIABANK invited him to take the helm.
“I told the board I felt confident that we could compete well and grow the company,” Byrd says. “It looked like an exciting entrepreneurial opportunity and a lot more fun than what I was doing.”
During the next several years, Byrd engineered IBERIABANK’s purchase of banks in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and Monroe. Then in 2007, around the same time that other Louisiana banks were chasing the hot real estate borrowing action in Florida, Byrd chose instead to expand into Arkansas. IBERIABANK purchased three institutions in the state over the next two years. “It was a chance to diversify geographically,” he says.
It turned out to be a good move. As economic conditions deteriorated in many parts of the country, Florida’s real estate market got smacked, and banks that held loans there stumbled hard. Some of those banks collapsed as a result; others that stayed on their feet are still paying the price.
Meanwhile, IBERIABANK’s investments in Arkansas and elsewhere turned out well, which is why the bank had the capital strength to make a big move into the New Orleans market during the past year by purchasing Metairie-based Omni Bank.
After also adding Cameron State Bank of Lake Charles to the mix last summer, IBERIABANK became the largest financial institution based in Louisiana.
“We’ve tried to expand into markets that we know well and make strategic investments for future growth,” Byrd says. It appears he’s on the right track.