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First South credit union to buy WinFirst Bank in Kentucky

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Credit union deals for community banks have now set a record.

The agreement by First South Financial Credit Union in Bartlett, Tenn., to buy WinFirst Bank in Winchester, Ky., is the 10th such buyout agreement of 2019.

In 2018, there were nine deals in which a credit union bought a bank. The acquisitions have proven to be one of the credit union industry's dominant trends for 2019, and while some have suggested it will continue for at least another two years, there are questions about the degree to which credit unions can retain banks' former commercial clients.

“This acquisition is terrific for us. WinFirst is a solid financial institution that brings distinct and unique strengths to the table," Craig Esrael, the $589 million-asset First South's president and CEO, said in a press release.

With the acquisition, the credit union will be able to offer commercial loans, auto loans and credit cards to its members, Esrael said.

Kari Gough, president and CEO of the $138 million-asset WinFirst, will join the credit union as its Kentucky market president.

“WinFirst has a proud history that stretches back 85 years," Gough said in the release. "First South shares our values and this combination will only enhance the high-level customer service that our clients have come to expect from WinFirst."

The credit union said it plans to retain all of the bank's employees.

The deal is expected to close during the fourth quarter. First South did not disclose the price it will pay.

Michael Bell, a lawyer at Howard & Howard in Royal Oak, Mich., advised First South.

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