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State’s banking industry trying to recruit more young people

GORDON FELLOWS

AMY DAVIS

By NASH NUNNERY

Like other business sectors, the banking industry is struggling to recruit and retain young people.

Between the financial crisis of 2008 and negative headlines about ethical missteps, it’s become harder to attract the next generation of professionals to banking.

Mississippi Bankers Association president and CEO Gordon Fellows said the banking industry faces plenty of challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.

“From a generational standpoint, today’s college graduates grew up in an economy damaged by the (2008) housing crisis,” he said. “We’ve reminded them, however, that (banking) is a really good career field and giving back to your community or hometown through a banking career is a great path to success.”

Enter the Mississippi Young Bankers 70th annual Study Conference & Convention which occurred March 7-11 at The Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. The conference welcomed some 150 of Mississippi’s young bankers and 300 other registrants, including vendors and spouses.

Launched in 1950, MYB operates as a section of the MBA.

Themed “Make Your Voice Heard”, this year’s MYB convention will feature two mornings of general sessions, keynote speakers on leadership and advocacy, and networking. Speakers for the event included Natalie Bartholomew aka “The Girl Banker”, corporate culture expert Lavon Gray and former Major League Baseball player (and ex-Jackson Met) Darryl Strawberry.

Additionally, the five finalists for the MBA’s Orrin Swayze Scholastic Awards were announced. The scholarships, presented each year to Mississippi college students, include one award of $5,000 to the Swayze Scholar and four awards of $1,500 given to the runner-ups.

“The (2020) conference theme ‘Make Your Voice Heard’ signifies the importance (for attendees) to be active in issues advocacy and political engagement,” Fellows said. “With the recent state elections that placed so many, including our new governor, into office under the age of 50, we’re finding more and more that young bankers are developing relationships with young politicians.”

Current MYB president Marc Petro concurs with Fellows’ assessment.

“The entire focus of my past year as president has been to encourage young bankers to get involved with the political process,” said Petro, who also serves as president of the Hinds-Madison division for the Community Bank of Mississippi. “I want our young banker group to understand the importance of cultivating relationships with these political officials and voicing their opinions when there is legislation that could positively or negatively impact our industry.”

The MYB’s mission is “educating Mississippians on how to effectively manage money, and the continuing education of young bankers”, according to the organization’s web site.

“Historically, the main purpose of MYB is financial literacy and providing education for the state’s diverse population,” said Amy Davis, a senior vice-president of the MAB and coordinator for the MYB convention. “At the convention, we focus on banker education and leadership. It’s a great opportunity to hear from various speakers about industry ‘hot topics’.”

Part of that education includes the MBA’s “Banker in the Classroom” initiative, Davis said. Started a decade ago, the state-wide program has reached over 100,000 Mississippi K-12 students.  MBA member bankers register to visit a classroom in their area and speak directly with teachers, who then arrange dates for the banker to visit the classroom and present on personal finance topics.

Current MYB vice president Zach Luke, who’ll take over as president at the convention, said the organization has provided great opportunities to network with bankers from across the state.

“It’s been an invaluable part of my experience with MYB and influenced my career in a meaningful way,” said Luke, CFO and a senior vice president at Bank of Commerce in Greenwood. “That’s in addition to the training and education offered through the Association, and just basic access to information of things going on in the banking world politically, regulatory and economically.”

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