In his division, there are 38 branches with 300 employees, and of course, these represent some of the largest banking operations in the state.
Alon defines himself as a “product of Jackson,” and it’s clearly home. After graduating from Ole Miss and the LSU Banking School, he began work for Deposit Guaranty, and ultimately wound up with Regions, where he was named city president in 2007.
With deep roots in the Jackson area, we asked him how he feels about Jackson’s future.
“I’m actually very optimistic and hopeful about the future of Jackson,” he said. “I’m not suggesting that there aren’t issues- — there certainly are plenty of those. But in general, I see things getting better.”
He pointed to the emerging trend of younger people moving to the downtown Jackson area, as well as the ongoing construction and progress along the I-55 north corridor.
“Of course, the major growth areas will continue to be Madison and Rankin Counties,” he suggested. “On the whole, I think our state is well positioned to grow and develop in the coming years.”
He pointed to the strength of agribusiness as one indicator that the state as a whole is moving forward, suggesting that the agricultural business is bound to grow in the coming years, given the quality of soil and the availability of water through the Delta.
For central Mississippi, he sees the continued growth and development in health care as essential to the state’s progress, and points to how the Coast has come back since Katrina as an example of Mississippi’s resilience.
However, optimistic that he is, he also sees a few clouds on the horizon.
“I’m really concerned that government regulation has just become too heavy,” he said. Most of the bankers I know would readily agree with him, since much of that regulatory burden has fallen on their shoulders since the financial and housing crisis of 2008-09.
“When you make it harder to do business, rather than easier, you clearly have a problem,” he said. “But I’m confident that the pendulum will eventually swing back in a more business-friendly direction.”
How about interest rates? Unlike many, he happens to feel that a small interest rate increase would not be a negative factor.
“I am in the camp that believes the Fed will still raise rates before the end of the year, but I also doubt that we’ll see more than a raise of 25 basis points. We almost need to do that for our own international standing, he said.
What about the equities markets? Are we in for a protracted period of volatility?
“On the whole, I’d have to say that I think the times of 15-20 percent returns are a thing of the past for the foreseeable future,” he suggested. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the markets are headed for any crash. Perhaps we may see a time with reasonable returns in the 5-6 percent range.”
Does he consider that banks are in a stronger position now than they were prior to the Great Recession?
“Definitely,” he said. “I think the banking industry is positioned as well as it can be to withstand another financial hit similar to the one we had in 2008-09. Most banks are much stronger than they were then, and balance sheets are healthy.”
Still, he worries about some things, and indicated concern over the Federal debt levels.
“Clearly, that’s not sustainable in the long term,” he said. “We definitely need to see a unified government that is willing to work long and heard to solve some of America’s challenges.”
He’s optimistic that that’s exactly what we’ll see.
A brief video with Alon can be seen on our website, MSBusiness.com, or on our YouTube channel, mbjournal.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1021.