By Corey Poole
Private by nature, BOM President and CEO Ken Hale sat down to talk banking, community, and personal passions over a black cup of coffee.
Ken is the 5th generation of his family to run the bank and his son Drake is working in the credit department after graduating from Louisiana State University in 2020.
Ken himself has been working for BOM since he was 12 years old. Sure, it started out with sweeping the parking lot and weeding the landscaping, but it’s what he’s most passionate about. Taking over the bank at 27, Ken was the youngest bank president in Louisiana for several years. Through the years, he’s ended up working at pretty much every branch.
Ken was raised by his grandparents in Montgomery and he can’t remember his grandfather ever missing a day of work. At a young age, his grandfather instilled in him a great work ethic, the importance of local business, and of giving back to the community.
“I’m fortunate to have grown up around my grandparents,” Ken explained.
When it was time for college Ken wanted to stay close to home. He came to Natchitoches and graduated from Northwestern State University in 1994 with a degree in agriculture and business. He met his wife Shannon as a freshman and they’ve been married 27 years.
“I really really like Natchitoches,” he said. “Like any other small town, there’s always challenges, but I couldn’t think of a better place to raise a family. I’ve always felt a sense of community here.”
It was that sense of community that led BOM to move its headquarters from Montgomery to Natchitoches in 2014.
One of Ken’s favorite things about the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase is the downtown riverbank and Cane River Lake itself. He and a group of running enthusiasts meet in front of the Santa Claus House on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 5:15 am. Doing this for five years now, the group is always inviting people to join.
“I love to get up well before daylight and exercise,” he explained.” It relaxes me and I feel good for the rest of the day.” He also attends yoga classes with his wife. And of course, you can’t be a country boy if you don’t hunt; deer and duck in Ken’s case.
Getting back to business, growth is the name of the game and BOM isn’t playing around. What started with one location has grown to 17, with their latest branch underway in Pineville. The company has grown from $18 million in assets to $850 million. In an effort to expand their services, BOM Financial was created in 2006 through the purchase of Traber Insurance, which operated in Natchitoches for close to 100 years.
But, at the end of the day, the foundation of BOM’s focus is on the customer.
“We’re passionate about rural America and giving back to our community,” said Ken. “We try to do all the business we can locally. In small towns like Montgomery and Natchitoches, the small businesses depend on it.”
Banks offer the same products, rates, and terms so BOM sets itself apart from its competitors by doing more. BOM averages around 8,000 hours (after work hours) per year of employee volunteer service. The bank also supports the community through donations, advertising and sponsorships.
Hiring people who were born and raised in the area creates a built in reason to want to help their community. BOM also empowers its branches to handle their own marketing and donations so they can make decisions at the local level.
“We’ll continue to grow while staying independent,” said Ken, who explained that the bank has been in the family since 1903. “We’ll also continue to increase our impact in the community with the help of our unbelievable staff. After all, I make the decisions, but it’s our employees that are the ones doing the hard work.”
Leading by example, Ken has been very involved in his industry and his community. He is a past chair of the Louisiana Bankers Association and sits on the finance council for Holy Cross Catholic Church. He is a federal delegate for the Independent Community Bankers of America (IBCA), and serves on the executive committee for the Friends of Traditional Banking and the Central Louisiana Community Foundation. Other organizations he’s contributed to in the past include the Natchitoches Historic Foundation, the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce, and the Boys & Girls Club.
Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that Ken never stops moving. He’s still working even if he’s sitting on the beach or answering an email at 2 in the morning.
On the softer side of things, Ken is a big supporter of Hope for Paws and is looking forward to the success of the newly formed Friends All United for Natchitoches Animals (FAUNA). He currently has three adopted fur babies: a pit named Bleu, a terrier mix named Roxie and a cat named Marvin.
“I can’t go to the animal shelter without getting emotional,” he shared. “I want to bring every one of them home.”
Ken loves jazz, which not many people may know about him. He has the radio in his truck programmed with his favorites including Miles Davis, John Caltrain, and Thelonious Monk. He’s also an avid reader of anything historical and enjoys going anywhere that’s not Louisiana during the summer. Vail, Colorado is one of his favorite travel destinations.
In addition to his son that works at the bank, Ken has two other children: his daughter Ragan and son Dylan.
“I’m fortunate to have my faith, my family, and my staff,” said Ken in conclusion. “Banking is my chosen profession and I’m thankful it’s allowed me the opportunity to give back.”