Over 26 years in banking has taught VP of Commercial Lending Melvin Harvey, Jr. a lot about people. The St. Francisville native entered the banking industry shortly after earning an undergraduate degree in business from Louisiana Tech University. In the late nineties, a few years into his career, Melvin knew he wanted to go to work for Bank of St. Francisville. Melvin approached BSF Chairman Emeritus Carter Leak III and Chairman of the Board, Conville Lemoine, then the bank’s leading lenders, and the three met for lunch at the original Magnolia Café on Commerce Street. Melvin wanted to find out more about how the bank operated and discuss the possibility of joining the BSF team. While encouraging, Carter and Conville didn’t have an opening for another lender at the time, but they told Melvin to continue to gain banking experience and stay in touch. Sure enough, 16 years later they hired Melvin as a commercial lender, and the rest is history. Melvin’s career has spanned both large and small financial institutions, but he says his 10-year tenure at BSF has shown him the the impact a local bank has on its community when customers know their bankers on a first-name basis.
Your family has been in St. Francisville for generations. In what ways has the community changed and remained the same?
My family has been here in West Feliciana Parish for 175 years. They led the West Feliciana Sheriff’s Office and Wildlife and Fisheries department here locally for more than 100 years. My fifth great-grandfather was the first doctor to practice in West Feliciana Parish. Today, his descendants still practice medicine here locally. I like to call it “God’s Country.” It’s that rare kind of place where you know most everybody, and people look out for each other. Since I’ve been at Bank of St. Francisville, we’ve seen a lot of exciting growth that the bank has been a part of, developments like Live Oak Centre on Highway 61, which includes local businesses like Audubon Market, Patrick’s Fine Jewelry, Best Western, and Elliott Pharmacy. We also have a new state-of-the-art hospital that is becoming a national model for rural health care across the United States. And we’re seeing new housing stock for people who work in the parish, but haven’t been able to purchase a home yet.
What do you like most about your job?
I like it all, but one aspect I really love is working with customers on our home and commercial construction loans. It has been incredibly rewarding to be a part of that milestone, because it’s such a huge financial and emotional investment for our customers. It feels great to assist them in creating a place where they can raise their family or grow their livelihood.
Click here to read BSF’s step-by-step guide to home loans.
You’ve also helped a lot of customers with business loans, right?
That’s right. I really enjoy working with customers who want to start a business, because we make time to counsel them about the best ways to structure a loan depending on the type of venture it is. I like to get out of my office and meet people in their own environment. It’s a great way to learn about them and what they want to accomplish, and it makes people feel at ease.
With support from Melvin and BSF, Stuart Maginnis of Maginnis Construction was able to purchase and renovate his dream office space on Commerce Street. Click here to read Stuart’s story.
Tell us about some of the moments that stand out in your mind.
I remember when we helped Country Roads owners James and Ashley Fox-Smith close on a new building in Beauregard Town in Baton Rouge for their operations. Investing in a commercial building was a big decision for them, so I showed up with a bottle of champagne, and we toasted what’s turned into a great asset to their business! There was another time when I had a customer who wanted to buy a franchise, but didn’t have the liquid cash on hand. We sat down and looked at all of his assets and realized he could pull some equity out of a piece of land and use the money to buy the franchise. One time years ago, I had a customer who needed a $100,000 loan by end of business Friday to buy a hard-to-find piece of equipment over the weekend out of state. I secured the loan, and told him to come in and sign the papers on Monday. It helped him land a contract and net a $1 million profit. I’ve had his business ever since.
"At a community bank like BSF, you can make decisions quickly and work with your customers to find solutions that help them thrive."