BancFirst Corp.'s strategy of fishing for small fry in its home state of Oklahoma is adding up — little by little — to a big expansion.

BancFirst, in Oklahoma City, last week announced its third acquisition in less than three months with the purchase of the $70 million-asset OK Bancorporation Inc. in Okemah, Okla., along with its subsidiary, The Okemah National Bank.

"On the surface, it looks small," said John Rodis, vice president of research at Howe Barnes Hoefer & Arnett Inc. "But the last three deals they announced totaled [more than] $350 million in assets, and that's a little more meaningful."

In early September, BancFirst said it would acquire Exchange Bancshares of Moore Inc. and its subsidiary, Exchange National Bank of Moore, with $146 million of assets. In July it announced the purchase of Union National Bancshares Inc. and its $137 million-asset subsidiary, Union Bank of Chandler. Terms were not disclosed. BancFirst did not respond to a phone call or e-mail.

The company has a history as a dealmaker, having strung together purchases to form Oklahoma's largest state-chartered bank. The bank had $4.6 billion of assets and 91 branches as of June 30. And three deals in three months "tells you they've been having conversations with these bankers for multiple years," Rodis said.

Since 2000, BancFirst has announced eight bank acquisitions, including one in 2009. All the deal targets were banks with no more than $150 million in assets, though BancFirst has enough capital and asset size to acquire a billion-dollar bank, Rodis said. Its bank unit is well capitalized, with a total risk-based capital ratio of 14.28% as of June 30.

Yet the small-step strategy has worked well for BancFirst. The company has been profitable throughout the recession, most recently reporting a 76% jump in second-quarter net income, to $11 million, from a year earlier. It also is among the better-performing stocks in its peer group, with a 52-week high of $47.15 and a low of $34.87, as of Oct. 1.

The small deals are a good fit with BancFirst's conservative, small-town profile; half the outstanding shares are owned by the Rainbolt family. David E. Rainbolt is president and CEO.

"These guys are conservative and they're also patient," Rodis said. Some might "wonder if they should be more aggressive but with 50% of the ownership on the inside … it matters to them, and they are not going to do something too aggressive."

This approach is clear in the types of banks that BancFirst is acquiring. The three recent ones are more than well capitalized, with nonperforming assets that make up less than 1.75% of total assets.

The Okemah National Bank, a 108-year-old institution, is an especially strong performer. It had a total risk-based capital of 24.77%, with 0.48% of total assets nonperforming, as of June 30.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.