Two Mississippi Cadence Bank Retirees Share Memories and Advice About the Banking Profession
While knowing the intricacies of crunching numbers is an important skill to have if you’re a banker, you’d be wrong to think banking is strictly about the bottom line.
Leaders at Cadence Bank say they’re first and foremost in the people business. Why? Because the daily operations and important decisions made in today’s banks are powered by people.
Recently, we caught up with two Cadence retirees to get their thoughts about what it’s really like to work in banking—how they got into the profession and why they decided to stay as well as the advice they’d give to new professionals just starting their careers.
Larry Holliday – Retired, Senior Vice President Relationship Manager
Tupelo, Mississippi, Downtown Branch
Larry Holliday is a quick study. At this writing, he was only two weeks into retirement but he already perfected the art of squeezing in 18 holes of golf between family events, daily one-hour walks, church and miscellaneous appointments like this interview.
This 12-handicap golfer (yes, that’s good) is always ready to talk about his family and the dual careers he sustained for 36 years–banking and the military.
How and why did you get into banking?
When I finished high school, I went into the Army for six years. When I was honorably discharged, I went to Mississippi State University and majored in business.
After graduating, I wanted a job where I could use my college degree. So, with resumes in hand, I went to Main Street in downtown Tupelo. When I walked into Mississippi State Bank (a Cadence Bank predecessor), it felt like home. Several bank executives had served in the military, so there was a common bond, too.
What about your other interests?
The military never got out of my system. After joining the bank, I joined the Mississippi National Guard. The bank was proud and supportive of my service, even after several multi-year deployments that included Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Pentagon. Each time I got back to Tupelo, I was able to rejoin my team in commercial lending.
When you come back from combat, you’re different. PTSD is real. Being able to come back to something that I knew and was good at was a comfort.
What parts of your job were the most rewarding while working at Cadence?
Both banking and the military showed me that I’m a people person. One of my early managers, Bill Buckley, said that I have what you can’t teach—people skills. To me, the biggest compliments were customer referrals. When someone would recommend you to their friend or family member, that meant a lot.
One standout project I worked on was with a long-time customer who had big dreams for developing what’s now known as The Cotton District in Starkville, Mississippi. He literally drew his vision on the back of a napkin. It became an inspired project blending legacy structures with new construction and preserving the history and character of the city that’s home to Mississippi State University. When the customer passed on, I got to enjoy working with his sons, whom I’ve known nearly all their lives.
If you could write a letter to your younger self at the start of your career advising about working in banking, what would you say?
I’d tell myself to stay focused and not let distractions get in the way. Life is short. I always had the goal to be the best commercial lender in Tupelo, but being with my family–wife, Jennie; son, Jeremy, and daughters Maria Fernandez and Romina Nnakwe–is very important, too. Plus, I now have two grandchildren–Caden and Kai Nnakwe–to dote on.
Mary Clare Royals – Retired, Branch Banking Operations Manager
Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Downtown Branch
Not known for sitting still, Mary Clare was in true form when we talked, as she was in her attic busily sorting Christmas decorations–’tis the season after all. It was just one task on a crowded holiday to-do list.
Before retiring, Mary Clare was a branch banking operations manager where she managed 28 teammates who traveled to locations across the footprint conducting assessments and teaching bankers policies and procedures for managing deposits.
How and why did you get into banking?
Banking chose me. My high school, Hattiesburg High School, had a vocational program; I interviewed and was hired by First Mississippi National Bank. My teacher, Mrs. McCrory, was a huge role model and was with me every day teaching me how to work in a business environment. I guess she saw something in me because she said, “Mary Clare, one day you’re going to be a bank vice president.” So, the day I became one I called her to let her know I made it.
Other influential people in your banking career?
I’ve worked with some of the finest people, but I’d say Judith Thompson Jones, one of my managers. She taught me the importance of professional dress. When I started working, everyone wore suits or blazers every day. It became natural to me, so I continued for all 46 years, clear through to my last day.
What made you feel supported at Cadence Bank?
I started at First Mississippi National Bank, but in the late 1980s it merged with the Bank of Mississippi (a Cadence predecessor). The interesting thing about that merger was that the Bank of Mississippi adopted First National’s loan system. So here I was in my early 20s going to Tupelo to teach more seasoned bankers how to use the system. As it turned out, I spent most of my career training others. Teaching and coaching come naturally to me, and my managers recognized that.
What were some of your responsibilities in branch banking operations?
When I first got into operations, my role required traveling to all the banks in a territory. My daughter, Margaret Rose, was a toddler at the time. When I had to go to Tupelo for work, she came with me. I was referred to a nearby daycare, so I’d drop her off and pick her up at the end of the day. Through this experience, she learned about work ethic, now she’s an entrepreneur herself in the fitness industry.
What do you find most rewarding about your banking career?
My ‘customers’ were my teammates. I taught them, helped them solve problems and provided resources so they could handle situations on their own. The most rewarding thing is to hear from people who thank me for all I did to help prepare them to move forward and rise through the ranks.
What advice do you have for young bankers–or anyone–starting their careers?
Always raise your hand. I learned early on that people are resources and advocates for you. You’ve got to interact with people and meet as many people as you can at every level to build up your resources. Get to know people you can learn from and those you can teach and mentor.
For Every Stage of Your Career
Cadence’s team members are what set Cadence Bank apart. Friendly, open, personable and committed to excellence – these are just some of our fine qualities. Plus, we make up more than a bank, we make up our communities.
If you are interested in becoming a Cadence Bank teammate, visit our career center today.
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