By BECKY GILLETTE
The financial services industry as a whole is facing an extraordinarily complex and ever changing technological environment, said Mississippi Bankers Association Chairman Gerard R. “Jerry” Host, who is president and chief executive officer of Trustmark Corporation and Trustmark National Bank.
“One challenge I believe is common, not only to the MBA, but to our colleagues in other states, as well, is simply how to remain relevant,” said Host, who is also is a member of the board of directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and a past director of the New Orleans Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. “We must continually find ways to help member banks as they work to meet the needs of today’s consumer. Frequently changing customer needs and demands, combined with all the latest technology, requires banks to regularly review and remain current through a broad range of delivery channels, from debit cards to online banking, to advanced ATM and ITM technologies.”
At the same time, he said banks must effectively conduct business while communicating across a wide range of social media platforms, and while maintaining the still present need of the traditional brick and mortar retail locations staffed with bankers who know and understand their customer base.
“It’s a balancing act for any customer service focused industry, including banking,” Host said. “Another challenge is insuring the organization finds common ground on issues important to our industry. Recent regulatory changes have created differences between banks of different sizes so we must stay focused on those common themes that help to promote our economy and businesses. Our community banks help to provide needed liquidity and support for many small businesses operating in Mississippi’s more rural areas.”
Host said MBA works year around with legislators, alongside other state and local leaders, to promote a business-friendly environment in Mississippi that helps create jobs and improve the overall economic health of the state and the communities served.
Education is a primary focus of the MBA for both member banks and consumers. The MBA offers a long list of educational seminars and tools designed to help community banks with information on topics ranging from technology and cybersecurity to regulation. Along with its member banks, the MBA also provides a broad range of financial education for all ages including “a banker in every classroom,” online financial literacy for students, housing affordability and money management programs.
The role of being chairman of the MBA carries a relatively short, one-year tenure. Host said a major goal for his tenure is to create greater continuity and ensure a clear vision through a multi-year strategic plan.
“The plan, which can be refined and reprioritized as appropriate, will contain specific and measurable goals with a focus on advocacy and education that is expressly designed to benefit our member banks,” said Host, who is 2017-2018 chairman for MBA. “To maintain consistency of focus and direction, the composition of officers serving on the MBA Board of Directors follows a customary path. A board member is first elected to serve as the association’s treasurer. This is followed by a year served as vice-chair, culminating with the one-year role as chair. Following the completion of the chair’s official term, he or she remains as an ex-officio member of the board for at least two years. The MBA president, the treasurer, the vice-chair and the chair, along with two non-officer directors, combine to make up the MBA’s executive committee. It is my goal to ensure that this established board structure, along with a focused and measured strategic plan, will provide continuity in the flow of fresh ideas and representation for all of our member banks.”
One of the things Host is most excited about is that MBA is in line to see its first female chair in its 128-year history. Mary Childs is expected to succeed him in May 2018.
“It will be a true honor to turn the gavel over to Mary,” Host said.
While the board guides decision making, Host said the MBA is fortunate to have a great team of staffers that has been led by President Mac Deaver for more than 25 years.
From a legislative perspective, Host said MBA works to be pro-business in its approach so it allows promotion of business and economic expansion throughout the state. He said the banks provide a critical role to provide funding and liquidity to businesses, and to many of the state and municipal entities either through issuing bonds or buying bonds of various state entities.
Host said his role as a member of the Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta allows him to bring the perspective of various businesses to the table.
“For each meeting, I will meet with a cross section of businesses in our footprint throughout the Southeast and find out what is going on in their business in terms of hiring practices, wage pressures, cost of materials, and all other kinds of things that help play into the primary role of the Fed, which is to manage inflation expectations and unemployment,” said Host, who is chairman of the Audit and Risk Management Committee of the Federal Reserve of Atlanta. “The views I express are my own and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve.”
Host said the positives being seen currently include unemployment nationally dropping to 4.3 percent, a 16-year low.
“The challenge is that we have not seen the level of economic growth that we are accustomed to seeing during a recovery,” Host said. “The good news is inflation still remains low, but overall GDP growth has been relatively flat. In the best of times, we would see the economy begin to pick up some speed in terms of overall growth, inflation remain intact, and unemployment remain around these levels. Businesses need to be able to find new employees and maintain existing employees without having a lot of wage pressure put on them.”
Host has been with Trustmark since 1984. Trustmark is a $13.2 billion financial services company with locations in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas. Host serves on the executive committee for Governor Bryant’s Mississippi Works Initiative, is past chairman of the Board of Governors of the Mississippi Economic Council and currently serves on its executive committee. He is a director and member of the executive committee of the Greater Jackson Chamber board, serves as chairman of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge Mississippi Campaign and is past chairman of board of the Mississippi Museum of Art.
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