On Tuesday, Mitch Waycaster steps into the role of chairman and CEO of the the financial holding company that is the parent of Renasant Bank. Robin McGraw, who announced a year ago that he would retire from those positions he’s held since 2000, will be executive chairman.
It will be the smoothest of transitions, as Waycaster moves into the top spot of the 114-year-old bank comfortably and easily, having spent nearly 40 years with Renasant.
The vision of the company, he said, remains the same.
“Our vision is to be the financial services provider in each of the markets we serve,” he said. “We do that by focusing on our four constituents.”
Those constituents are the Renasant’s clients, its employees, the communities in which the company has a presence and its shareholders.
The clients of the bank – otherwise known as customers – are crucial to the continued growth off the institution.
“You must first understand their needs and then you just meet their needs,” Waycaster said.
The company’s 2,100 employees also play an integral part of Renasant’s past, current and future success, and, “We want to create security and opportunity for them because they’re the company’s greatest assets,” he said.
And when it comes to community banking, Renasant has long held firmly to the idea that it can offer “big bank” services while maintaining the feel of a hometown bank. Doing so also means being part of the towns and cities in which it has some 180 locations across five states.
“It means giving back and reinvesting to our communities, and we do well in every one of them, we believe,” Waycaster said. “The result of doing those three things well – focusing on our clients, our employees and our communities – will result in serving our fourth constituent well, and that’s giving an optimal return to our shareholders.”
And by all measures, Renasant has followed its vision well.
After starting out with less than $100,000 in assets in 1904 as the People’s Bank & Trust Co., it kept its core business in and around Tupelo and Northeast Mississippi. It wasn’t until a century later before it made it’s first out-of-state acquisition, merging with Renasant Bancshares of Memphis.
Not long after this merger, Peoples rebranded itself as Renasant. Following mergers and acquisitions between 2003 and 2007, Renasant grew from a little more than $1 billion in assets to more than $3.4 billion in assets.
Renasant now has more than $10 billion in assets for the first time in its history. And it’s getting bigger.
In March, Renasant announced its fifth acquisition in as many years. In its largest-ever merger, Renasant will acquire Georgia-based Brand Group Holdings for $453 million and add more than $2 billion in assets.
A bank reaching $10 billion in assets also means taking on all new levels of regulatory scrutiny and risk management. Waycaster doesn’t see that as a challenge, however.
“I call them opportunities,” he said. “Through growth we have focused on those things that position us to do so, particularly over $10 billion. We have invested greatly in the company in infrastructure, information technology, risk management and delivery of products and services. As we approached that mark, we knew in the industry there were things we needed to do to prepare for that, and we began that several years ago.
“But I think it’s a function of growth, whether you’re at $10 billion or as we approach $15 billion or whatever that next marker may be. It’s looking to the future and anticipating that.”
Kevin Chapman is among the experienced team members who will stand alongside Waycaster as Renasant moves to its next chapter. Having been chief financial office since 2011, he was named the company’s chief operating officer last week. He, too, welcomes Renasant’s continued upward trajectory.
“One of the challenges as you get bigger is making sure the employees feel plugged in, making sure their voices are heard and navigating that culture,” he said. “It’s very critical to us.”
Ultimately, it will be the employees who will shape the company’s future and meeting customers’ needs.
And Waycaster said the big numbers don’t change who and what Renasant represents.
“Now the question is, how do you improve upon that vision of Renasant?” he said. “It’s grounded in our culture, which is a big part of who we are. It’s why people choose to bank here, it’s why people choose to work here.”
Waycaster said there will be no revolutionary changes at Renasant under his watch.
“I like to consider the path we’re on as an evolution of our current direction,” he said. “It is about continuous improvement in the things we talked about earlier, and we’ll be intentional … We are on a proven course, we continue to improve upon that direction and we’ll remain very focused on that.”
— Dennis Seid
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