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State’s new banking chief Charlotte Corley has deep roots in the business

Charlotte Corley

Charlotte Corley

Mississippi’s bankers should have no difficulty recognizing the name of the state’s new banking commissioner.

Gulfport native Charlotte Corley has been a bank regulator in Mississippi her entire working life, having joined the Department of Banking & Consumer Finance as a bank examiner in 1985. She became banking division director in 2000, after a 13-year stint as a field examiner.

She most recently served as deputy commissioner, and is credited with helping the department achieve one of the highest accreditation rankings the Conference of State Bank Supervisors awards state banking agencies.

The ranking, Corley said in Gov. Phil Bryant’s press release on her appointment, “is a direct reflection on our excellent staff.  I am truly honored by this appointment.”

Corley went to work for the banking department a year after receiving a bachelor of business administration degree with a banking and finance major from Mississippi State University. Bryant appointed her to fill the unexpired term of Jerry Wilson, who took over the commissioner’s post in mid 2012 upon the retirement of longtime commissioner John Allison.

Wilson had retired as president and CEO of Macon-based BankFirst when Bryant asked him to take the commissioner’s job. Wilson, who is approaching 70, resigned at the end of September to spend more time with his family, the governor’s office said.

Corley’s appointment, which is to run through July 2016, must be confirmed by the state Senate during the 2015 session.

Growing up in a banker’s family, Corley decided early on she would go into banking. But unlike her father, the late Jim Nicholson, who retired from Hancock Bank in the late 1980s, she wanted to work the other side of the fence as an examiner. “I was just always drawn to the regulatory side,” said Corley, who graduated from LSU’s School of Banking of the South in 1992 and the American Bankers Association National Graduate Trust School, Northwestern University, in 1996.

Corley’s department of 63 employees regulates everything financial in the state except for insurance, securities and pre-paid funerals.

With today’s technology, the department’s 40-plus examiners have far less need to be on-site at banks to do their work. To accommodate them at department headquarters, the department recently moved from the Capitol Complex’s Woolfolk Building to larger quarters in north Jackson.

The department oversees 70 state chartered banks with total assets approaching $60 billion, a level that received a sizeable boost from Hancock’s acquisition of Louisiana’s Whitney Bank a couple of years ago.  “When I came into the banking division [as director], it had about $20 billion,” Corley said of the asset levels 14 years ago.

“Not a lot has changed since I came out of the banking division,” said Corley, who took over last year as deputy banking commission upon the retirement of Theresa Brady.

“One of the things I’m trying to address is staff retention,” she said, a task made somewhat easier by keeping examiners at department headquarters for exams instead of in the field.

Mac Deaver, president of the Mississippi Bankers Association, described Corley as “extremely well qualified.”

The MBA looks forward to working with such an effective and knowledgeable chief regulator, Deaver said. “She has played a major role in making our state’s banking department one of the most highly accredited in the country.”

In her three-decade career, Corley has “effectively dealt with diverse economic conditions, tremendous growth in technology, and the emergence of diverse regulatory issues,” he added.

Corley is not Mississippi’s first woman banking commissioner. But she was hired by the first one, Jean Porter.

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