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Leard takes top position with Regions in Jackson

By JACK WEATHERLY

Robert Leard

Robert Leard has taken the reins of Regions Bank’s operations in metro Jackson.

Birmingham-based Regions’ assets stand at $125 billion and it has 1,500 offices across the South, Midwest and Texas.

It has 34 branches in the Jackson area banking market (Hinds, Rankin, Madison, Copiah and Yazoo counties) and 126 statewide. Regions does not reveal a further breakdown on assets by region.

Hancock Whitney Bank, with $23.9 billion in assets as of the end of 2016, is the biggest Mississippi-based lender.

Regions is dealing with a recently passed and signed bipartisan regulatory relief act, which is primarily designed to relieve much of the regulatory burdens placed on banks after the national financial crisis, according to Brian Smith, head of government affairs in Washington, D.C., for Regions.

It is designed to “right-size some of the post-crisis regulations,” for community, mid-sized and regional banks, Smith said.

Though Regions is far bigger than community banks, it believes that the lending climate is best served when small banks are able to serve the local markets, Smith said.

About one community bank per day is disappearing through a merger with another small bank, he said. And that is in part because of the onerous burden of hiring a substantial number of persons who do nothing but deal with regulation, he said.

Leard joined Regions, then known as AmSouth, in 1995 after graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor of science degree in business administration.

He credits his predecessors, including Arthur DuCote, who is now in the same position in Montgomery, Ala., with building the customer base.

Leard will continue in his role as leader of commercial lending, not necessarily because that is the primary focus of the bank’s operation, he said.

His role as “market executive” is a reflection of the change in the emphasis on roles in the institution, rather than the market’s location, he said.

Jeremy King, a spokesman for the bank, said the market director for Regions in south Florida, for instance, is the private wealth management leader.

Since 2012, the bank has used the “holistic” Regions360 approach.

Chairman, President and Chief Executive Grayson Hall told the Barclays America Conference in London in May that “the way we face our customers today and as the internal messaging brand for our prescriptive approach to relationship banking and growth.”

“We want to meet customers’ needs and grow our institution by helping our customers reach their financial goals. It is of no value for us to sell a product or service to customers unless it is one that they truly want, truly need and that truly creates value for them.”

In 2016 Regions had the best overall reputation among top U.S. banks and the best reputation among customers for the second consecutive year according to a survey from advisory firm Reputation Institute and the American Banker magazine.

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