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Young bankers understand challenges, but see bright futures

Young college graduates are entering banking from different backgrounds and finding careers and fulfillment. Several of them spoke to the Mississippi Business Journal about the industry and the choices they’ve made in light of current challenges for banking.

Russell Turley, 23, has been with Regions Bank one year and is an assistant branch manager. With a degree in business administration, he was hired into the management trainee program.

“My degree covered so many different areas including marketing, sales, management and finance,” he said. “Banking has a multitude of diverse departments and positions that center upon these core business principles. Like most recent college graduates, I didn’t know what it takes to succeed on a day-to-day basis inside a branch, but I’m getting a tremendous opportunity to see and experience it.”

He isn’t so much worried about the image of banking as he is that people are concerned about their financial future from home values to the security of their money to inflation and rising gas prices.

Reaching out to customers

“We’ve talked throughout the company about our strength and stability and what that means,” he said. “One thing it means is that this is the time to reach out to customers to reassure them, to provide guidance and to walk through this difficult time together.”

At age 25, Amy Shelton has already been with Cadence Bank in Columbus 5 1/2 years. That’s because she started working part time as a teller while attending Mississippi University for Women.

“I liked the organization and decided I would stay with it after graduation,” she said. “My degree in accounting is helpful, but a lot of what you lean is through experience and the people around you.”

Starting from scratch

Shelton feels Cadence Bank is where her career needs to be because she has room to be creative in her position in the credit department where she does credit risk portfolio reporting. “There is no real model, and I like that. I like to start from scratch and come up with something that will go to the board,” she said. “I’m still learning and would like to stay here.”

She admits she was concerned when publicity began about the subprime mortgage situation. “Our bank is pro active, letting customers know that we have good capital and are federally insured,” she said.

Haley Hinton is also 25 years of age. She’s a relationship manager associate in Trustmark Bank’s Private Banking Department after coming in as a management development associate in 2006. During college days, she worked in the retail industry and assumed her career would follow that path.

“I never seriously considered working in the financial services industry until I spent a summer studying abroad in London, England, while working on my MBA,” she said. “During that summer, we visited the Bank of England and had an opportunity to meet with professionals in that organization. They talked a great deal about the 300-year-old history of their institution and its significant impact on the economy.”

That experience was a turning point for Hinton who considered herself a number-cruncher, but one who enjoyed working with people. She feels the financial services industry provides the best of both worlds.

Complete package

“Many people think that banking is finance, economics, depositing, borrowing and investing. At Trustmark I have learned it’s much more than that,” she said. “I have been able to develop my management, team building, marketing and people skills.”

Hinton adds that with the challenging times, a competitive industry has become even more competitive. “Companies like Trustmark are not only trying to maintain their customer base, they also must continue to seek new business, and they need professionals who understand that,” she said. “I am by nature a competitive person, which makes this industry a perfect fit for me.”

Shannon Phillips, 29, says banking sort of picked her instead of the other way around. After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in marketing from the University of Southern Mississippi, she wanted to return to her hometown, Waynesboro. There was a position available in the marketing department of First State Bank in Waynesboro.

“I definitely enjoy it,” she says. “Marketing for a bank is different from other marketing because of all the restrictions. There are a lot of things going on in banking now, but with a community bank, it doesn’t affect us as much.”

As a member of the executive board of the Mississippi Young Bankers Association, Phillips is on the forefront of publicizing the positive aspects of the industry.

Eric Kravette is vice president and commercial lending manager for Whitney National Bank’s Mississippi Division in Gulfport. At age 38, he’s been in banking long enough to experience it on several levels. He likes driving through communities and seeing that he’s been a part of projects.

“Throughout college, I was fascinated by all aspects of business and economics,” he says. “I wanted to be a part of putting together deals and projects that ultimately produced a product that would benefit a street, a block, a city or community.”

He observes that it’s a difficult time for banking on a national scale, but doesn’t feel all banks should be painted with that broad brush.

“I believe that on a regional level, more specifically in South Mississippi, the banking industry is very sound,” he said.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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