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Running with the bulls: Cochran explains the role of a bank

Q&A: Scott Cochran, Mississippi Division President, Renasant Bank

Being the Mississippi Division president of Renasant Bank can get pretty hectic, especially during these tough economic times. Throw in the role of being a good parent and family man as well as a community leader, and one would assume that Scott Cochran is one stressed-out bank executive. However, Cochran seems to maintain the balance of these duties with ease. The Mississippi Business Journal recently got Cochran’s views on the economy, Renasant Bank and his outlook for the future.

Q — What do you see as your role in economic development?

A — To continue discovering opportunities that are compatible with Renasant’s philosophy and risk tolerance. Strong banks are the financial backbone of economic development, and our role is to help bring projects to fruition when the deal makes good sense financially.

Q — How has your prior position as a commercial lender shaped you as state president of Renasant?

A — In my prior position, I managed six corporate lenders and a total staff of 10 employees. Our department also worked with our entire state region in originating and managing larger credit relationships. Therefore, I was very familiar with the entire management of the region, which fostered a smooth transition. The majority of the time in my new position continues to be working with credit relationships and our staff in making every effort to assist our clients through this difficult economic period. Being a commercial lender really teaches you about all aspects of a business, its finances and how to manage risk.

Q — These are tough times for the banking industry. What is Renasant doing to reassure its customers that the bank will weather the storm?

A — Renasant’s decision not to take any TARP (or “bailout”) funds from the federal government while maintaining our strong capital position can give confidence that we are properly positioned to weather the current tough times. This, reminding our clients that no one has ever lost a dime in FDIC-insured deposits, our conservative banking philosophy and the fact that Renasant has maintained its dividend throughout the recession, gives reassurance to our bank’s sustainability for long term growth.

Q — How has your work with the United Way and Lions Club benefited your professional career?

A — In addition to managing a staff and working side by side with members in a cohesive manner, it has taught me how to lead by example. Employees tend to work harder for those in management that do not hesitate to “roll up their sleeves” and work with them versus working “over” them. My work with these groups has made me thankful for the strong community that we live in and the giving hearts that surround us in Mississippi.

Q — What is your opinion of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s public-private partnership plan he says will fix the banking industry? Will it work? Why or why not?

A — As of right now, we’re taking a wait-and-see approach. In theory, the idea that the government will split investment with private partners through loan guarantees to buy banks’ “toxic assets” seems like a worthy cause. What we don’t know is how much value is still held in these bad loans, at what price are banks willing to part with assets that may comeback when the economy turns around, are there enough willing private investors and — most importantly — how much tolerance and risk taxpayers are willing to accept for these government designed programs. I’m a little skeptical of government being too involved in the private marketplace, but until we actually see the program in operation, it is too early to know how well it will work.

Q — Is there anything you would change about Geithner’s plan?

A — Again, it’s really too early to make any suggestions on changes to the plan when there has not been enough time to fully evaluate its successes or failures. However, at some point, the historic ebb and flow of markets will turn the economy around, credit will be more available and good conservative banks, such as Renasant — that didn’t get involved in risky financial deals — will be stronger than ever.

Q — Being of a younger generation, do you participate in any of the online social networking or blogging that has advanced so much, recently? If not, would you consider?

A — I like my privacy and stay away from most social media outlets. So, while I don’t “tweet,” I do have a pretty strong addiction to my “crackberry” in managing my communication through e-mail. Beyond work, I like to spend my free time with family and hobbies such as golf, being a father to my two young daughters and grilling out.

Q — What would you claim as your biggest success?

A — My greatest success has been being happily married for 22 years and having two beautiful healthy daughters. No work accomplishment can ever outweigh my blessed family experience.

Q — Where do you see yourself, and, possibly, your career with Renasant Bank in five to 10 years?

A — I have only been president of Renasant’s Mississippi division for two years, thus I envision being in a similar role to where I am right now. Mississippi represents the legacy territory of our 105-year-old financial institution, and this division continues to be the leader in profit generation for our bank. My hope is to continue playing a vital role as we grow into other vibrant markets as the economy improves.

Q — Do you have any mentors? Who influenced you, and what did you learn from them?

A — While I have had several mentors over my career, I would say that Mitch Waycaster, who formerly held my current job and is now Renasant’s chief cdministrative officer, has had the greatest influence in my management style. Mitch Waycaster lives by The Golden Rule. He is fair and conscientious of everyone in all situations. His attention to detail and forethought is exceptional.

Q — What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your job?

A — The best aspect of my job is continually forging relationships with my 400-plus employees and the clientele of our bank. The worst aspect of my job is numerous meetings that I have to attend as a part of senior management.

Q — Ever considered going running with the bulls in Spain?

A — In this economy, I feel like I’m running with the bulls everyday! No, the daily stress of my job is plenty excitement for me.

— Interviewed by Leslie Galloway

Scott Cochran, Renasant Bank

Age: 45

Hometown: Columbus

Degree(s): BBS in banking from Mississippi State University and graduate school at Louisiana State University

Hobbies/Interests: Golf, grilling out and spending time with his daughters

Favorite Music: Jazz

Favorite Color: Blue

Favorite Movie: Anything Disney, due to two young daughters

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