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Business Observer Thursday, Apr. 15, 2021 1 year ago

Want to get to a yes? Say no first, says one banking executive

Being upfront with customers helps build good relationships, says a longtime Florida banking executive. Picking up trash helps build even better relationships with employees.  
by: Beth Luberecki Contributor

For David Druey, sometimes the best answer he can give a client is “a quick no.” Over his more than two decades with Centennial Bank, including the last several as the bank’s Florida regional president, he’s learned a fast response can help everyone move on to the next thing.

‘Banks tend to string people along and then not get the loan done. To me if you can do the loan, great. But if you can’t do the loan, tell the person.’ David Druey, Centennial Bank

“Everybody’s busy; everyone has lots of things to do,” he says. “A quick no is probably more appreciated than anything.”

That doesn’t mean a no is always the end of Druey’s relationship with a customer. Sometimes it’s a step to the next option that could result in a yes.

“That’s how I’ve created a lot of my relationships, being able to say I can’t do it this way, but I can do it this way,” says Druey, 48. “That creates that feeling of I’m not going to string you along. Banks tend to string people along and then not get the loan done. To me if you can do the loan, great. But if you can’t do the loan, tell the person.”

Those strong relationships with clients proved beneficial during the COVID-19 pandemic. Druey could comfortably reach out to clients to see how things actually were on the ground compared with what was being reported on the national news. And because he oversees almost 80 Florida locations of Conway, Arkansas-based Centennial Bank, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Home BancShares, he was able to learn how things differed regionally or across different industry sectors.

He reached out, for example, to folks in the hospitality industry in Florida to learn what they were experiencing and how that differed if they were located near the beach or more inland. “If we didn’t have a relationship, you couldn’t pick up the phone and call those people,” says Druey, who is based in Fort Lauderdale but travels statewide. “And because we have that relationship, they felt open and honest to have that discussion with us.”

Over the course of his career, Druey has had a servant leader management style, jumping on whatever needs to be done regardless of title. In addition to the quick no, that’s been another advantage in building a strong team. “If we need to get out there and pick up trash in the parking lot, let’s get out there and pick up the trash,” he says. “If we need to understand a project, let’s go see the project. Let’s get out and do the things we need to do.”

Druey has been involved with Centennial Bank since its 1998 founding in Arkansas, and he’s seen it grow from nothing to some $17 billion in assets today. “We’re able to do bigger deals and larger projects that we couldn’t do even when I first moved down here to Florida [seven years ago],” he says. “And we still have that community feel….We’re still doing small business loans in Southwest Florida. We’re still doing all the things we were doing as a community bank, but we also have the opportunity to do some very large transactions for some of our customers who have also grown exponentially in the Florida market. To have that scalability is important.”

Especially when you’re working in a place like Florida, where things like the population and property values are often on the rise. “The upward trajectory of almost everything in Florida is unlike everywhere else,” says Druey. “The Florida market is not like any other market. It bounces back faster; the prices go up quicker. It’s definitely a wonderful market to be in, and you get credit for lot of things when it’s really just the state of Florida just being the state of Florida.”

As the world continues to recover from the pandemic, he expects to see an uptick in bank acquisitions, something happening before the pandemic. “You might have some of these smaller banks that have weathered COVID-19…that might say this may be the time to get out and be a part of a bigger bank,” he says.

Centennial Bank’s last bank acquisition was Stonegate Bank in 2017, a $778 million deal. Could Centennial be part of that acquisition uptick Druey expects to see? He’s got nothing specific to say about that. “But we have been very active in the past with acquisition of banks,” he says. “We are always an acquisitive bank.”


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