Five top bankers in the region share their stories — and secrets behind their success.
Brandon Box has only been in banking for a decade, but he already sees the issue many bankers with lots more years' experience recognize: Will there be enough talented young bankers to step into executive roles when the current crop retires or moves on?
“I think the goal, like with many other things in life, is to try to find ways to pass it on,” says Box, an executive vice president and market president for the Fort Myers and Sarasota markets at IberiaBank. “We're working for a larger organization and building something bigger than ourselves.”
Box, 32, is one of five up and coming bankers on the Gulf Coast profiled here. He has some traits in common with his peers. Many fell into banking, and now have a passion for the industry they want to share with others. Also, many say the time-tested cliche — it's all about building relationships — remains the best way to build a sustainable, successful career.
— Mark Gordon
Banker: Cristin Madden, 42
Current role: Vice President Commercial Lending, Charlotte State Bank & Trust
Starting out: Madden dabbled in different financial-related roles during high school, college and after she graduated from the University of Massachusetts. She later earned an MBA in finance from Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
Rising the ranks: Like many of her peers, Madden has been part of a smaller bank gobbled up by a bigger bank. She joined Charlotte State Bank & Trust about a year ago, and is happy to be back in community banking. “When that opportunity came up it was just perfect; I love working with smaller business owners and smaller investments,” she says.
Secrets of success: “For me, it was about taking on challenging opportunities that I thought maybe I wasn't ready for, but working hard and really listening to the advice of the bankers who had more experience than I did,” says Madden. “I was fortunate to have seasoned bankers around me when I was first starting out, and that was invaluable.”
Challenges faced: Madden's job requires her to weigh multiple factors when looking at financing requests. “Getting all the information you need in order to make loan decisions can sometimes be a challenge,” she says. “But as you become more experienced, you learn the right questions to ask and how to explain things to different people. There's an education process that you have to go through with some clients.”
Learning opportunities: Entering the local banking scene in the early 2000s provided Madden with a crash course in banking ups and downs. “I got to see two extremes,” she says. “I got to see the building of a boom and how crazy things got in the early part of the 2000s, and then I saw a total bust,” she says. “Some bankers don't see what I saw in my first 10 years in their entire careers.”
Young ones: Madden often gets asked to speak with FGCU students about the banking industry. “It's an ever-changing field,” she says. “E-commerce is huge; banking technology continues to expand, so tech-savvy individuals are always in demand. And compliance is huge in banking, which a lot of people don't realize. It's not just your finance majors.”
Looking ahead: Madden will continue to grow the commercial real estate portfolio she's building from the ground up at Charlotte State Bank & Trust. “This is a unique opportunity for me, and I'm really enjoying it as the bank continues to grow in Southwest Florida,” she says. “As the bank grows new opportunities present themselves, so I'll grow with it.”
Banker: Laetitia Boyle, 33
Location: St. Petersburg
Current role: Senior Vice President, securities-based lending, Raymond James Bank
Starting out: Boyle entered Eckerd College intending to study something science-related, but a class in international business piqued her interest in finance. An internship at Raymond James helped cement her interest. Boyle started at Raymond James in 2006, in its Options Rotational Development Program, which gave her experience in three different departments over a year.
A different realm: Raymond James Bank isn't like your typical community or national bank. Boyle's main clients are the wealth management firm's financial advisers, who then offer the bank's products and services as additional resources for their clients. “A lot of people working at Raymond James don't even know we have a bank,” she says. “I love the educational aspects of my job.”
Making connections: Boyle maintains relationships with people she met through her time in the Options Rotational Development Program. “Those allow me to pick up the phone and just ask a really quick question,” she says. And getting to know plenty of other people in her company has been vital in career advancement. “If you're the only person who knows what you do well, it's doing nothing for you,” she says. “Showing people that you're capable and willing to learn and take on more, that's what's helped me in my career. I've always been willing to ask for the next project or to learn if there's more I can be doing.”
Learning opportunities: Boyle has seen that you can't let your internal focus and drive overpower everything else. “Sometimes when your head is down and you've got a lot of stuff going on, you don't stop to think about the ramifications of your actions,” she says. “One of the mistakes I've made is having tunnel vision. I've been in a groove and haven't thought about what someone else might be feeling on the other side. My lesson learned is that you always have time to take a step back. You owe it to yourself and the people you may run over.”
Next generation: “Most everyone is going to have a mortgage at the end of the day; most everyone has a credit card or uses some form of debt,” says Boyle. “All of these products are always going to be woven into the fabric of our society, and what we do is very fulfilling and interesting. But I hope we're not viewed as stodgy and boring.” She thinks banking may have to become a little less traditional to appeal to younger workers looking for the perks and flexibility offered by high-tech firms and other forward-thinking companies.
Looking ahead: Boyle likes that her current firm offers lots of different opportunities. “I think I will always be somewhere in the financial-product realm,” she says. “I see myself staying here and being a true Raymond James lifer. So the next steps for me are to continue to learn, continue to be challenged and be given other opportunities to innovate.”
Banker: Aaron Jimison, 34
Current role: Senior vice president and retail market manager, Westshore branch, USAmeriBank
Starting out: Jimison worked as a bank teller for a large regional bank while an undergraduate at USF. “Initially for me it was just a job,” he says. “But I quickly became engaged and really enjoyed seeing local businesses grow and watching them stimulate the Tampa Bay economy.”
Moving up: Jimison next moved on to branch management and then business banking. Six years ago, he joined USAmeriBank, where he went through the company's Emerging Leaders program. That helped him develop skills in everything from strategic planning to leadership, and provided exposure to executive and senior management. “The bank has presented a lot of development opportunities for me, and that was one of the things that attracted me to it,” he says.
Words of wisdom: Jimison, who works constantly on things such as staying visible in the community and finding ways to provide value and resources to clients, advises to be yourself when forging relationships. “If you don't know the answer to something, don't make it up,” he says. “Try to develop your skills over time and entrench yourself in your industry, not just while you're at work but in your life in general.”
Market reality: Jimison was initially taken aback by all the obstacles and issues banks face, including regulatory requirements and cyber threats. “I was surprised about the number of challenges we have to deal with,” he says.
Learning opportunities: Jimison says his success wouldn't have been possible without the support he's received from his employer. “The senior management here at the bank has been instrumental in my career growth,” he says. “They have assisted me every step of the way, and I've learned so much over the past six years due to their guidance and learning from the mistakes they've made and what they've come across in our ever-changing economy.”
Next generation: “I think the banking industry, to me, seems under-rated,” he says. “It seems like the majority of bankers fall into the industry. But there are so many facets of banking. There is so much opportunity and it's definitely a great career path for younger folks to look at.”
Banker: Dennis Murphy, 37
Current role: Executive Vice President and Senior Loan Officer, Gateway Bank of Southwest Florida. (Will become senior president, area executive and commercial team leader after the merger between Gateway and CenterState Bank is complete later in June.)
Starting out: Murphy says he “happened upon banking” when finishing his MBA at the University of South Florida. Originally thinking about being a financial adviser, he met a representative from AmSouth Bank at a USF job fair, which led to an interview and job offer. “Coming out of college with debt, it would have been a little scary to go straight to a [financial adviser] job that was almost all commission,” he says. “There was an allure of a job with a decent base salary.”
Rising the ranks: Murphy began on the retail side of banking, managing branches for AmSouth. A move into commercial credit coupled ==with a credit training program put his career on a fast track. “That opened up a lot of opportunities,” he says. After transitioning into commercial lending, he became a senior lending officer at Gateway.
Skill sets: Murphy attributes his success in banking to a lot of hard work. “You have to be willing to put in whatever time is necessary to achieve your goals,” he says. “You need to have intellectual curiosity to continue to learn and grow. And you have to have a mindset where failure is not an option.”
Learning opportunities: Murphy has been guided by several mentors, and considers Gateway CEO Shaun Merriman the most influential person in his career. “He's got this amazing ability to empower and lead staff, where he can turn an employee into a stakeholder,” Murphy says. “I've been fortunate that he's kind of taken me under his wing; I've learned a lot from him.”
Competitive forces: Dealing with competition is a big part of Murphy's banking world. “One of the biggest challenges any good banker faces is convincing clients of the value in relationships,” he says. “Creating a local base of clients is something all good bankers are trying to do, and it's always a challenge with as much competition as there is.”
Next generation: “Banking can be a wonderful career for those who are analytic but also extroverted,” says Murphy. “We need young, innovative minds to continue to look for more efficient or different ways to do things.”
Banker: Brandon Box, 32
Location: Fort Myers and Sarasota
Current role: Executive vice president, market president for the Fort Myers and Sarasota markets at IberiaBank.
Starting out: Box interned at IberiaBank while earning his MBA from Louisiana State University. “I didn't think it was going to be my career,” he says. But he became fascinated with the banking industry and accepted a full-time position upon graduating. “I had no idea there were so many different sides to banking,” he says.
The right combination: “My favorite thing about banking is the perfect balance between a job where you crunch numbers and where you get out of the office and interact with people,” says Box, who relocated to Naples in 2010 to work as a commercial banker for IberiaBank. He was promoted to his current role, where he'll oversee commercial, retail and private banking efforts from Fort Myers to Sarasota, in May. “I'm not sure I could do either one of those 100% of the time.”
People power: Box enjoys seeing the impact his work has on clients. “A lot of the small businesses we helped provide capital to are now big businesses,” he says. “It's an extremely rewarding feeling when you see those people years later and know that you took a bet on them and made an investment into their businesses.”
Words of wisdom: You don't always have to say yes. “There are many circumstances where no is the right answer,” says Box. “For instance, on a credit application sometimes the best answer is no not only for the bank but also the client. And sometimes no is the right answer when looking at career opportunities.”
Connections: “All good bankers really have their pulse on everything happening in their community,” he says. “And in today's world where there are so many different banks, you have to pull the clients in; they don't just stop by for no reason anymore. The only way to do that is to meet a lot of people, be a trusted adviser and earn people's respect.”
A growing need: Finding the necessary workforce is a core challenge Box sees in the local banking industry.
“I think there is huge opportunity for young people who get into banking,” he says. “You may continue to see more technology in banking, but at the end of the day people want to interact with people when it comes their finances. I think young people don't know about careers in banking, but the ones who do get in and work hard have really successful careers over a short period of time.”