Early in her career, Nancy Strickland was a road warrior.
Her job as a bank examiner with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was based out of Montgomery, Ala. But she easily could rack up hundreds of miles traveling all the way to Virginia and down the East Coast to Florida during the savings and loan crisis in the early 1990s.
“The travel was very intensive with the FDIC,” said Strickland, 43, an Alabama native. “It was a wonderful training ground. I spent a lot of time out of state.”
But it was that relentless travel schedule that ultimately prompted her to leave the federal agency and enter the world of banking to raise a family in a more settled environment.
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“My family is very important to me,” she said.
That road has led her Columbus Bank and Trust, where Strickland now serves as a business banker -- one of nine at CB&T -- for the top bank in the market in terms of market share (about 61 percent, according to FDIC statistics).
In a recent interview, she talked about her job and the transition she has made through the years. It is edited for length and clarity.
What does a business banker do?
I concentrate on small businesses. It’s companies with revenues of less than $10 million, and we service all their needs, from checking accounts, loans, SBA loans, credit cards.
About 70 to 80 percent of the local market is small business?
That would be a good number.
How does your current job compare to that of your former one as commercial lender?
In the organization I was in (at Georgia Banking Co.), the senior commercial lender managed the lenders and we were all business bankers.
How has the commercial lending sector been doing in the Columbus area?
It has been very profitable, very stable and an excellent source of business for all the banks.
What are your day-to-day duties?
The main focus is serving my customers. We want to have relationships with our customers and make sure that we handle all their needs and are completely responsive to them, because without our customers, there is not a need for the banker. Everything is dependent on the customer, making sure that we service them respectfully, fairly and take care of them 100 percent.
Do you manage that with phone calls, emails, etc.?
It’s all of those. But primarily you need to see your customers face to face. In order to truly be able to bank a client, you need to be visiting them at their place of business so that you understand how their business model works. Each one is a little different. Once you go to their business and you develop that relationship, it is an ongoing process. You need to be out visiting them at least once a quarter.
You’re away from the office a lot?
I’m out, I would say, at least half of the time.
But the technology is a big help?
It’s a partnership. You have phones and access to your emails when you’re out. Really, the technology goes hand in hand with going out and visiting them.
What types of businesses do you deal with?
It would be retail, physicians, it just runs the gamut. There are a lot of service industries in Columbus and that is certainly something that the business bankers focus on.
What’s your opinion of the Columbus-area business world?
I think there is a lot of room for growth in Columbus. You have Fort Benning to the south. You have Phenix City on the other side of the river. I think Columbus, to some degree, has been insulated from the recession and has not felt the impact as much as other areas have. ... I think there are new businesses wanting to relocate, and that Columbus is very focused on community involvement. There are a wealth of opportunities here.
How did you get involved with FDIC?
When I was in college they came onto campus and recruited, and you had to meet certain criteria. They would only interview business majors, basically accounting and finance majors. And you had to have a 3.5 overall grade-point average and a 3.5 or better in your major field -- mine was accounting -- to interview.
If they selected you to interview, you went to either Birmingham or Atlanta. They basically asked you for the top three cities that you wanted to live in and then they would offer you a position if they so desired in one of the cities, hopefully. I started in Montgomery, Ala.
What were your duties as a “commissioned safety and soundness bank examiner”?
You would only do one bank at a time. You go over all their financials. We’d look at a sampling of the loan portfolio, and you could also do the compliance exam and things like that. But I assessed the soundness of the loan portfolio and financials of the company.
Bank examiners have been very busy of late?
It goes in cycles. it’s very similar to when I started in 1990 or 1991. The work is not really that different, or even the intensity of it, because you would go into banks every 12 to 18 months back then. It would be rare to go more than 18 months without going into a bank. They are continually assessed for safety and soundness and continually monitored.
That FDIC experience was valuable to you in the private banking sector?
I can see both sides clearly now.