With an accounting background and more than 30 years experience in banking, John Walton says he’s exactly where he wants to be as the new division president, Mississippi Gulf Coast, with BancorpSouth Bank.
“I love what I do,” he said. “One of the great aspects of my job is getting to meet a lot of people and learn a lot about companies; what makes them tick. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and BancorpSouth gave me a great opportunity to continue doing it.”
The Gulfport resident was associated with Whitney Bank for a number of years. With the recent acquisition/merger with Hancock Bank and The First, banking regulations would not allow him to be employed by Hancock Bank. “I’m thankful that every person kept their job and that it turned out to be an opportunity for me with BancorpSouth,” he said.
As a division president, his duties include leading and empowering others to do their best. “I do everything in my power to make all our employees and customers as successful as they can possibly be,” he said. “I give them guidance.”
The son of a banker, Walton was born and reared in Austin, Texas, and has one brother. He looked around to see which college graduates were getting jobs – accounting and banking – and earned an accounting degree from the University of Texas. Accounting firm KPMG hired him after graduation and chose him to work in its banking division.
“I realized I liked banking more than accounting and that’s how I started in banking,” he recalled. “Accounting is an invaluable background to have in banking; the best to have in my position.”
That decision led him to the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University, and he hasn’t looked back. Meeting lots of people every day is what the affable Walton enjoys most about his work. “It’s that personal contact and being involved with the bank officers, employees and customers,” he said. “I have lots of opportunities to do that.”
He acknowledges the trying economic times that the country is facing. “We’re coming out of a recession and certainly an economy that’s struggling,” he said. “When property values stay flat, it affects us and gives us challenges. It affects everyone. We have to look at history and know we’ll come out of it. We will stay with it. It’s a function of a strong bank to ride out a slow economy and assist customers.”
Noting the trials of the banking sector, Walton feels Mississippi banks stayed home and did what they were supposed to do. “We’re an integral part of the economy. When it booms, customers are affected and buy things,” he said. “If we don’t take part in lending to those who have not demonstrated they can pay, we won’t suffer.”
With an outgoing personality and commitment to community service, Walton continues to make his mark on the Coast. He became a member of the board of directors of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation in 2003 and chaired the grants committee following Hurricane Katrina. “That really came into play after Katrina when we had $30 million in funds to disperse,” he said. “It’s a huge responsibility to give away that much money.”
The Foundation recently awarded a round of grants from the Rockefeller Foundation to assist recovery from the BP oil spill. A third round is yet to come.
He was chairman of the United Way of South Mississippi at the time of Katrina when 33 non-profit organizations were devastated and had to recover. He also co-chaired with Viking Range’s Fred Carl the housing recovery committee of the Governor’s Commission on Recovery, Rebuilding and Renewal following the storm. Other involvement has included serving as chairman of the Gulf Coast Chamber of Commerce in 2007.
“From all indications, having John join our organization is a win/win situation for everyone,” said Chuck McIntosh, vice president of marketing and communications with BancorpSouth. “We’re excited to have him with us on the Coast.”
The 62-year-old Walton enjoys golfing and running and is happy to have his two grown children living nearby. He and wife Michele are the parents of Dr. Ashley LeMaire, one of only five neuro psychologists in the state, and Johnny Walton, an insurance executive. They are welcoming their first grandchild, Julian LeMaire.
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