By Colin Barrett, President/CEO, Tennessee Bankers Association
At this time each year, as the TBA Annual Meeting comes to a close and a new association year begins, I find myself reflecting on what the early days must have been like for Tennessee banking and the Tennessee Bankers Association.
The TBA was founded at the Gayoso Hotel in Memphis on October 13, 1890. And while banks from across Tennessee wrote letters of support for the formation of the Association, credit largely goes to a small group of dedicated Memphis bankers who were concerned about the federal government hindering Tennessee banks’ ability to serve their customers. Although the government’s overreach is a frustration we have in common with our forefathers, many other issues we face today would have been unimaginable 131 years ago.
When bankers gathered last month in Charleston, we once again tackled challenges and opportunities facing our industry and customers. This particular point in history finds no shortage of topics to discuss, including fintech partnerships, excess deposits, credit quality, the state of the economy, long term impact of the virus, unprecedented government spending, and, of course, government overreach.
While addressing the industry’s issues, we also followed through on the advice given by Colonel R. Dudley Frayser during his opening remarks at that inaugural Convention in 1890 and did our best to “make common ownership of the benefits derived from varied experience, and enjoy each other’s society for our mutual pleasure.” Our founders understood the importance of a well-connected banking industry, and those relationships have been a contributing reason for the Tennessee banking industry’s success over the past century.
And one would be hard pressed to find someone with better relationships across the state than Chris Holmes, president and CEO of FirstBank. Chris served as TBA chairman this past year and was an outstanding ambassador for the banking industry and Association. One of my highlights was hitting the road with him, though not as often as we would have enjoyed due to the pandemic, and visiting with bankers throughout the state. His success leading FirstBank with its unique urban and rural footprint is well respected by his peers. His leadership was further on display when he testified during a House Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee hearing in Nashville in February, highlighting the banking industry’s role as the economic first responders during the pandemic.
As the industry and country hopefully turn the corner on the pandemic, I look forward to working with your new TBA Chairman Allen McClary, chairman and CEO of UBank. UBank is a $60 million bank headquartered in Jellico. Allen understands the challenges our community banks face and will do a terrific job representing the industry in the year ahead.
Meanwhile, the pace of change we experienced over the past year is not likely to slow down. Many questions remain about the economy and the potential impact of this Congress and the Biden Administration. And the number of bank acquisitions in the last few months are an indication of the continuing evolution of the Tennessee banking landscape.
These changes are not unlike the ones faced by a group of bankers in Memphis in 1890. And like back then, we have dedicated bankers leading the Association and looking out for the best interest of Tennessee banks. I can only speculate on what the future of Tennessee banking might look like, but I’m confident the Association will continue to evolve to serve the changing needs of Tennessee banks.