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40 Under 40 - Class of 2019
Business Observer Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019 7 months ago

Porter Smith, 39

Tampa Bay Market President, American Momentum Bank
by: Traci McMillan Beach Contributing writer

The Bible’s Book of Proverbs shares words to live by for Porter Smith, and not just because he’s religious. “There’s tons of practical wisdom — how to handle relationships, how to handle money,” he says.

It’s especially pertinent advice for Smith, a two-time top producer for American Momentum Bank. “Banking is all about how to handle money and building relationships.”

Smith is the Tampa Market President for American Momentum, a bank with $1.6 billion in assets and a presence in several key markets in Texas and Florida. He credits his success to hard work and being a good steward.  

“We are stewards of our customers — entrusted to make good and sound decisions with other peoples’ money,” he says. When the bank makes credit decisions, it’s trying to determine how good a steward the potential borrower is. Every time Smith originates a loan, he thinks, “This is my friend’s grandmother’s money. Would I give this money to someone else to use, and can I trust that we're going to get paid back?”

Using this mindset, Smith captured the attention of senior management by showing them what he liked to do and what he was good at. “I’m a big believer in paying your dues,” he says. “I've done that several times in my career. I've never been hired in to my position at a company.”

Smith’s road has had its fair share of bumps. He got into banking almost by accident — when the job he had been hired for after college as an equity research analyst at Retirement System of Alabama was retracted due to Enron and WorldCom filing for bankruptcy. His first job was a rare one in the banking world: analyzing community banks in the southeast while working for a large bank, BBVA Compass.

Following a neighbor’s advice, Smith sought to learn credit skills at a small community bank in Tampa, Anderen Bank. “I had to beg for that job,” Smith says. “They told me ‘no’ twice, and I told them: ‘I don’t care what you pay me. I just need an opportunity, and I’ll prove I’m worth it.’” 

At the time, he had a young family and went almost a full year without a paycheck, so he kept asking until they agreed to take him on, train him and send him to banking school. “Desperation is a powerful motivator,” Smith says. 

ON THE RECORD: Porter Smith

City of residence: Belleair

Employer: American Momentum Bank

Title: Tampa Bay Market President

Birthplace: Montgomery, Alabama

Years on the Gulf Coast: 14

Marital status/children: Married with children

Alma mater/degree: Auburn University: Bachelor of Science in finance

Where is the best place to network? The golf course, if it's the right golf course

What's the best business lesson you've ever learned? Steward the opportunity you've got right now. Don't chase money. Read the book of Proverbs a lot. Your job is not your identity. Ask really smart people a lot of questions. Always do the right thing. Do work that makes someone else's life better. Recognize opportunity and don't be afraid to try and fail.

What's your top tip for being productive? For me, this is all about keeping priorities in order. When the rest of your life is in order, your work is not only more productive, it's more fulfilling. When I need to lock in, though, I need a quiet, peaceful place with a clear head and no distractions. 

What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Carpet cleaning one summer in college as a consequence for some really poor grades one semester.

What community group or organization are you most involved with? Radiant Church. I serve as a trustee, and my wife and I do premarital counseling. 

If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? I'd be Chip Gaines a couple days a week. I love working with my hands and building things. I have a pretty good eye for home design and construction. My sons and I built a pretty killer playhouse last year, and I've also rehabbed a dozen or so single-family homes over the years. 

What's your favorite off-hours activity? I really love to practice golf. My sons are into the game as well, and there's nothing better to me than spending time with them on the practice area trying to get better. It's a lifelong sport that I grew up playing with my grandad and hopefully one that I will be playing with my grandkids one day. 

What's your favorite board game or video game? Any goofy board game with a group that ends in a good laugh

What's the top item on your bucket list? No question, it's a golf trip to Scotland. The birthplace of golf, modern economics and single malt scotch.

Where is your happy place? Selma, Alabama, at a hunting camp that I've been going to with my dad and my best friends for the past 20 years. We go every year on the same weekend, and there is something so awesome about walking the same trails and hunting the same spots year after year. We all take our sons now and have passed on our love of hunting and the outdoors to them. 

What's your favorite podcast? "How I Built This" — Guy Raz

Who/what is your favorite musical artist/band? This is probably a three-way tie: Elevation Worship, Oscar Peterson Jazz and Merle Haggard Country

Who would play you in a movie about your life? Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch; that's an easy one.

What was your first album/tape cassette/CD? "Killin' Time" — Clint Black

What was your first concert? I literally don't remember. Must have been a really good one.

What's one song that will get you out on the dance floor? Almost anything under the right circumstances.

What's your favorite karaoke song? I have never done karaoke — primarily out of fear.

What instrument/role would you play in a band? Clearly, lead singer. That or cowbell. 

Please describe yourself in three words: Believer, husband and father



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