Bank of St. Francisville leadership: Founder & Chairman Emeritus Carter Leak III (seated, left), Chairman of the Board Conville Lemoine (standing, left), Senior Vice President & Baton Rouge Market President Douglas Dupont (standing, right), and President & CEO Carter Leak IV (seated, right). Photo copyright: Don Kadair Photography
Emblematic charm, high-performing schools, and friendly people have helped make St. Francisville one of the South’s most enviable small towns — a place that retains tremendous appeal for residents and visitors alike. And while the forces that have conspired to nurture St. Francisville’s unique identity are plenty, there’s little question that Bank of St. Francisville and its founder, H. Carter Leak III, have played a foundational role in the community’s successful evolution.
“Carter cares so much about this community,” said Bank of St. Francisville Chairman of the Board Conville Lemoine, who has worked with Carter ever since joining the bank two years after its charter in 1978. “So many of the decisions he’s made in business have been about protecting the town and making sure it’s been able to grow the right way,”
This year, the bank celebrates its 45th anniversary. Under Carter’s leadership, what started life in a temporary trailer on Commerce Street, has grown to occupy a stately A. Hays Town-style headquarters on the same site, with $254,000,000 in assets, 50 employees, and a second full-service location in Baton Rouge.
Looking back, Carter says the driving force behind the bank has been to help people accomplish their dreams.
“As a small community bank, we have personal relationships with many of our customers,” said Carter. “It has always been important to us to be approachable to anyone in the community seeking financial advice or assistance.”
Much has changed at the bank and in St. Francisville over the last four-and-a-half decades, but Carter was able to see from day one how a community financial institution had the power to foster the concept of place, says his son, Bank of St. Francisville President and CEO Carter Leak IV.
“For my dad, it was always about more than just the bank,” said Carter IV. “It was about taking steps along the way that would help the community flourish.”
Sometimes that meant writing loans that larger national banks would have shied away from because of their small size and higher perceived level of risk, Carter IV says.
Throughout its history, Bank of St. Francisville has prioritized helping local businesses like Magnolia Café and Grandmother’s Buttons get off the ground. The bank has also helped countless other ventures to grow, including large West Feliciana parish-based employers like The Myrtles Historic Inn, Red Stick Armature Works and Wilcox Oil. And it’s helped scores of everyday residents grow personal wealth by acquiring or improving residential property through mortgage lending and home equity lines of credit.
Even in periods of statewide economic decline, as in the 1980s, Bank of St. Francisville aggressively lent money to small businesses, in large part because of Carter III’s core belief that a bank’s highest purpose is to support its community, Carter IV says.
“When you look at small towns that have lost their local bank and only have a large national institution, you see that community dry up,” said Carter IV. “That’s not been the case here.”
While the elder Leak was instrumental in steering the bank’s growth, he’s also been a devoted member of the community, serving on countless boards, and participating in initiatives that have helped safeguard St. Francisville’s well-known quality of life. Carter III founded the West Feliciana Community Development Foundation and co-founded the West Feliciana Chamber of Commerce and the St. Francisville Rotary Club. He says he’s particularly proud to have worked on Feliciana Vision—a community-wide strategic planning initiative that launched in 1997.
“In my opinion, it was the most ‘game-changing ‘project we worked on,” said Carter. “It gathered input from over 200 concerned residents to guide the future of West Feliciana Parish. It provided directives for parish government decisions on a host of important issues, including financial planning, smart growth, and land use development.”
Carter says he’s also proud the bank brought its customers the best in technology, including secure online banking and a mobile app that have kept pace with offerings from larger banks. Even back in the late 1990s, when broadband access was in its infancy, Bank of St. Francisville installed telephone technology that positioned it as the first non-long distance access provider of internet service to the community.
“Customers were able to subscribe to dial-up internet through the bank,” Carter recalls. “What was so gratifying about this accomplishment was that the bank, aware of this community need, figured out away to fulfill it.”
Carter III’s vision also charted a course for Bank of St. Francisville to expand its physical footprint, Conville says. The bank opened a full-service branch in Baton Rouge in 2022 at 5505 Highland Road and has acquired additional property on Jefferson Highway for future expansion.
“I don’t think the bank or the community would be where it is without what Carter’s done,” Conville said. “You can see his influence in everything we do.”