published Friday, May 6th, 2011

FSG hires 2 insiders to restore profits

Two veteran bankers have joined the board of First Security Group Inc., and will be paid over the next two years to help develop a business plan to put Chattanooga’s biggest independent bank back in the black.

Bob Keller, 73, and Jack Clarke Jr., 68, both managing directors of Triumph Investment Managers which has owned shares in First Security for the past six years, said Thursday they have joined the eight-member FSG board.

Triumph also will be paid $20,000 a month — and given an option to earn far more — to strengthen FSG’s financial standing and management.

“We strive to invest in small cap community banks that have the potential to outperform their peers and create value for its shareholders,” Keller said. “We believe that such an opportunity exists for First Security given the strong economic outlook in eastern and Middle Tennessee and North Georgia and the Bank’s position in the market.”

With 31 offices and nearly $1.2 billion in assets, FSG is the biggest bank headquartered in Chattanooga.

But FSG lost nearly $82 million over the past two years, placing the bank under heightened regulatory oversight since April 2010 and forcing former CEO Rodger Holley to resign in April. The company’s stock, which traded as high as $12.07 per share in June 2006, closed Thursday at 72 cents a share.

Ralph E. “Gene” Coffman Jr., who succeeded Holley as president, said Triumph “will help us take FSG to the next level” by working with management to improve operations and to develop a strategy.

“We’re not interested, in this point, in selling the bank, and we’re excited to work with Triumph.”

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