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Annual MBA convention focused on softer side of banking

Mississippi bankers agreed the highlight of the association’s annual convention May 19-23 the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort in Florida was the speech, “Failure Need Not Be Final,” by retired Commander Scott Waddle, a 22-year naval officer who was the commander of the USS Greeneville, the submarine that crashed into a Japanese fishing vessel as it emerged in water off Hawaii in February 2001.

“He had a brilliant naval career and it all just crashed, and his comments about how he managed to survive it touched everyone,” said Odean Busby, chairman and CEO of Magee-based Priority One Bank. The “All In The Family” themed retreat also honored MBA past president Hugh S. Potts Jr., chairman and CEO of Kosciusko-based Merchants & Farmers Bank.

“Hugh did a great job,” said Frank Sibley, CEO of Citizens Bank & Trust in Marks. “He’s a very honorable person and Gene (Walker, incoming president) will follow right in his footsteps. Gene also gets the job done.”

World-class customer service consultant Dennis Snow, who has worked with ExxonMobil, Blockbuster Video, BMW Financial Services and spent several years with Disney University teaching corporate philosophy and business practices to Disney employees and leaders, spoke about “Creating World-Class Customer Service.”

“I enjoyed Dennis talking about the concept of teamwork that Disney has within their management structure and how they treat their business like a family,” said John Haynes, president of Farmers & Merchants Bank in Baldwyn, who has attended MBA conventions with his family since he was seven.

Snow emphasized the importance of looking at service through customers’ eyes, said Busby.

“What our customers perceive about our level of service is ultimately what it really is,” he said.

Dr. Donald V. Austin, chairman and CEO of Austin Financial Services Inc., a Toledo, Ohio-based financial institution consulting firm, gave an entertaining and informative talk about corporate governance, emphasizing that board members must be more attuned to what’s taking place in their organizations these days, said Busby.

Kendric Fergeson, 2003-04 chairman of the American Bankers Association, was the Saturday morning business session speaker on “Not Business As Usual: Emerging Issues in Banking,” which included the controversial topic of credit unions not playing on a level field with banks.

“It continues to get more and more frustrating that credit unions can do virtually anything they want without paying taxes,” said Busby. Sibley was impressed by Gov. Haley Barbour’s talk: “Fulfilling Mississippi’s Promise, Facing Mississippi’s Problems.”

“I enjoyed Gov. Barbour more in this speech than probably any of the others I’ve ever heard him give,” he said. “He really talked with us instead of giving a speech. He gave us a rundown on the budget and the legislative items he’s fighting. He opened it up for questions and answers. I keep up with what’s going on, but to get the inside view, and reasons for things, sometimes makes it easier to deal with.”

Potts agreed. “It’s always refreshing to hear a politician say the same thing after getting in office as he did before getting there,” he said.

Before turning over the presidential reins to Walker, Potts, a 33-year industry veteran, pointed out that MBA’s political and legislative agenda continues to be focused on tort reform.

“Rather than making a dramatic impact in education and government relations this past year, I trust we have moved forward in those areas,” he said.

Walker said he is pleased to represent the MBA until the 2005 annual convention, which will take place May 18-22 at the Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort in Sandestin, Fla. “The MBA is an organization that works diligently to not only improve banking in Mississippi, but also to improve our society in general,” he said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at mbj@thewritingdesk.com.

About Lynne W. Jeter

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