A Billion-Dollar Bank with a Focus on Community

Limestone Bank tailors its services to local communities and prioritizes charitable endeavors.

By Steve Kaufman

Photos by Kathryn Harrington

There are more than 130 state-chartered banks in Kentucky, an above-average number given the Commonwealth’s density of population. Limestone Bancorp is one of the larger ones with about $1 billion in assets. (By comparison, the average-sized state bank has assets between $300 and $350 million.)

“It positions us well to serve our communities,” said President and CEO John Taylor. “We have the scale and size to meet our customers’ needs. But our value proposition is a more intimate, more personalized experience than the larger national and super-regional banks offer.”

The Limestone approach to banking is unusual in a paperless, digital age. “Think about how the financial services industry has changed,” Taylor pointed out. “Larger banks are going to more commoditized approaches to deliver products and services. If you want to get a home mortgage from a large financial institution, you’ll probably have to do it online. Of course, we also have online and mobile banking, but we use them as complements to one-on-one personal relationships.”

That’s available to customers entering the bank, but it’s also available when the bank enters the community. “We go out and call on customers and we listen,” said Taylor. “When we call on entrepreneurs in need of financing to build their businesses, we don’t deliver a standard product and require the customers to work with that. We listen to their goals, objectives and needs, and then we come up with solutions for their particular situations.”

Limestone Bancorp was founded in the early 1980s, and its first acquisition was a bank in Bullitt County. It now operates 15 different locations in 12 counties. The Limestone name is new as of February – it formerly was PBI Bank – and Taylor said the new name “allows us to do a better job of identifying who we are and where we’re going.”

Why Limestone? “It’s a material found in over 80 percent of Kentucky’s surface,” he explained. “Everyone here knows that it’s solid and firm, so it’s a good way for us to tell the story of how we’re working to help our customers prepare for a firm financial future. It’s not just a name-change; it’s a whole brand re-identification.”

The Louisville branch at the bank’s Eastpoint headquarters has been undergoing a renovation as well. The centerpiece of the physical space is – what else? – a limestone fireplace.

But Limestone’s connection to its communities goes further than that. Its website lists a number of charitable endeavors that the bank participates in: Habitat for Humanity in Bowling Green/Warren County; the Super Student Athletes Life Center in Louisville; Next Step, a 10-week financial literacy program for low-income persons in Glasgow, Kentucky; and the Christmas for Kids event in Henry County, supported by its Pleasureville and Eminence banking centers. In Brownsville, Kentucky, the bank covers the costs of the GED exam for Adult Education Center participants.

In Jefferson County, perhaps its biggest corporate involvement is with the March of Dimes, known to millions of Depression-era and post-war Americans as the cause that fought the infantile paralysis epidemic. After vaccines reduced polio to less-than-epidemic proportions, March of Dimes turned its efforts elsewhere. It now works to improve the health of mothers and babies by funding research to prevent birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality.

As Stephanie Renner, Limestone’s general counsel, said, “Every baby is a March of Dimes baby.”

Limestone is a sponsor of Signature Chefs, March of Dimes’ major annual formal event, and it participates with more than money. Renner has been active on the local March of Dimes’ board of directors, serving as vice-chair for three years. She co-chaired Signature Chefs with Taylor in 2015 and chaired it by herself the following year.

This year, it will be held on Nov. 8 at the Omni Hotel Louisville, 400 S. Second St., starting at 5:30 p.m. with cocktails.

“As many as 30 local chefs, this year coordinated by Josh Moore of Volare, will come in and prepare dishes in a tasting set-up,” Renner explained. “There are also silent and live auctions.”

Currently, the still-expanding list of participating restaurants includes 8Up; 502 Bar & Bistro; Roc; Asiatique; The Brown Hotel; Brasserie Provence; Bourbons Bistro; Fat Lamb; Brooklyn and the Butcher; Joy Luck; Flavaville; The Porch; Fork and Barrel; Varanese/River House; Gospel Bird; Volare; Jack Fry’s; Ward 426; Levy; Bob’s Chophouse; Old Stone Inn; Sarino; Martini’s; Equus; and Cellar Door Chocolates.

Renner said the event raises between $300,000 and $350,000 annually. Tables start at $3,000, but it sells out every year – a fact Renner attributes to the powerful food community that is Louisville. “Louisville prides itself on its local chefs and restaurants, and everyone here wants to be a part of it,” she affirms.

When Renner tells other March of Dimes locals about the number of chefs who get involved here, they’re always amazed at the participation. “The truth is, we turn chefs away,” Renner said. “There’s always a waiting list.”

Nor is it your usual tasting event of cramped quarters, long lines and tiny portions. “It’s very roomy and comfortable, and everyone gets plenty to eat.”VT

For more information on Limestone Bank, visit limestonebank.com. For more information on the Signature Chefs Auction and sponosrhip information, visit signaturechefs.marchofdimes.org.

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