By BECKY GILLETTE
Banking Commissioner Charlotte Corley, Mississippi Department of Banking and Consumer Finance (DBCF), has seen many changes in banking over the past 34 years. At the end of January, she will be retiring and handing the reins to Deputy Commissioner Rhoshunda Kelly.
Corley grew up in Gulfport where her father worked for Hancock Bank. In high school, she took courses in mechanical drawing and architecture. She was really interested in architecture, but was discouraged by her instructor to follow that course. So she arrived at Mississippi State University (MSU) intending to pursue computer science and banking.
Her advisor at MSU was Dr. E. Carl Jones.
“Dr. Jones was a dear man and took me under his wing to make sure I stayed on track and got the courses I needed to graduate in 3 years from MSU,” Corley said. “He even helped me get my first job with his nephew at the Great Southern National Bank in downtown Jackson. That’s where I got my year of experience required to become a bank examiner.”
She said one of the greatest things about being a regulator is that you learn and work in every aspect of the bank.
“I can honestly say the job has never once been monotonous,” she said. “When you regulate an entire state’s banking industry, there is something new every day. It can sometimes be challenging as a state regulator when we’re required to enforce federal laws and regulations that we had no part in developing.
“No matter whether we are enforcing state law or federal law, we strive to be consistent, fair, and balanced across the industry in our administration of the law or regulation. Our goal is ultimately the same as the institutions, to have safe and strong banks capable of serving the needs of the communities they operate in. We never want to be punitive, although sometimes that’s part of the job, too.”
Corley recalls back at the bank in the mid-80s, a male friend in the same department with the same degree made a higher salary than she did.
“I didn’t let it bother me,” she said. “It just made me work harder. I knew what I wanted to do and worked hard to get there. While the industry in Mississippi is still primarily male dominated, I’ve seen plenty of successful women in banking in the state. I don’t believe the lack of women in the industry is discriminatory. It seems more lack of interest. When our agency goes and speaks to college students in the banking and finance classes each year, there are just not a lot of female students in those classes. I’d like to see that change.”
When Corley started, they had manual type writers, adding machines, and landline telephones. Now their examiners are armed with laptops, printers, and cell phones.
“Today examiners have computer programs and regulatory tools to aid in the examinations,” Corley said. “Back then, we went in unannounced and counted every penny in the bank. Today we preplan, notify the bank we’re coming, ask for loads of information in advance and risk focus our exams. We definitely don’t count cash anymore. In our larger institutions we moved from point-in-time exams to a continuous exam cycle where we have examiners in the institutions 30 to 40 weeks out of the year.”
Corley said Mississippi is fortunate to have a robust financial ecosystem and is ranked 17th nationally in state-chartered bank assets.
“It’s rare for a state the size of Mississippi to be the home state for three large (assets > $10B) state-chartered banks,” she said. “These assets are rooted in Hancock Whitney Bank, BancorpSouth, and Renasant Bank.”
Corley grew up in a strong Christian family. When she was eight, her twelve-year-old brother, Jim, was diagnosed with brain cancer and given two weeks to live.
“Watching how my parents and family worked through Jim’s illness provided many life lessons for me. Jim managed to outlive his diagnosis by almost 40 years, but not without difficulty,” she said. “Throughout my life if I ever let myself think I’d been mistreated or wronged, I quickly thought about my brother and shook it off. He taught me so much about living with a positive attitude.”
She also learned a lot from her dad, who was an all-SEC basketball player and track star at MSU before becoming a banker.
“I definitely had to learn to balance my competitive side with my mom’s grace, even keel, and thankful heart,” Corley said.
In 1985 DBCF had a total of 33 employees. They now have 85 positions. In 1985 the Banking Division supervised $8.6 billion in assets, and now have $89 billion in banking assets under supervision. That is growth of 900 percent in 34 years.
The agency has become a lot more actively involved with the industries regulated.
“We meet regularly with the Mississippi Bankers Association and the Mississippi Consumer Finance Association,” she said. “We proactively make them aware of emerging trends and risks we are seeing in their industries.”
She started her career interested in computer science and banking, and now the two are blending together more than ever before.
“This blending of finance and technology is referred to as Fintech,” Corley said. “Examiners now need a knowledge blend of banking/finance and technology. More and more financial products and services are shifting to model driven technologies using data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. Examiners must fully understand these models to adequately assess the safety and soundness of an institution.”
A career highlight was being elected to serve as the 2018-2019 chairman of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors based in Washington, DC. CSBS serves as a conduit through which all state regulators come together, develop collective policy, training and technology, and then take action.
“In my time as CSBS chairman and even before, I saw how state regulators are able to take action more quickly than others, help Washington set its policy direction and build the foundation for a future system of financial supervision,” she said.
A few years ago, she received a call gauging her interest in serving as a member of the Federal Reserve Board. It was a huge honor to be considered, but she decided not to pursue that path.
In her 34 years, there were three recessions, including the Great Recession.
“My co-workers and I have helped many problem banks work through their issues to once again thrive, put rogue nonbank lenders out of business, and I’ve unfortunately worked on the closing of three banks, a thrift and a credit union in the state,” she said. “Through my job, I’ve been blessed to develop friendships, build relationships with federal and state colleagues, and meet and work with many amazing people. It’s been an honor to have served the people of Mississippi to ensure a safe and sound financial system, fair and competitive access to credit, and protection from abusive practices.”
She and her husband, Aubrey, have three children, all graduates of MSU.
Christopher is a mortgage loan originator in Madison, Patrick is a mechanical engineer in Gluckstadt, and Catherine is a pharmacist in Memphis.
The Corleys are members of Pinelake Church and supporters of Cheshire Abbey, a non-profit group helping animals in need in the Jackson area. They are devoted MSU sports fans. Corley did competitive sailboat racing for more than 30 years which included racing with a team from Tampa to Isla Majeures, Mexico, in a tropical storm.
She and are husband are moving to Starkville in the spring. She plans to “actively enjoy retirement while embracing God’s plan for whatever lies ahead.”
Corley is a graduate of the School of Banking of the South at Louisiana State University and a graduate of the American Bankers Association National Graduate Trust School at Northwestern University.
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