Q&A with Jim Robinson

2022-2023 Chairman, Independent Bankers Division,
Tennessee Bankers Association
President and CEO, Heritage Bank & Trust, Columbia

Jim Robinson served as the 2022-2023 chair for the Independent Bankers Division Board, which is responsible for designing the program for TBA’s Community Banking Conference and the Bank Directors Retreat.

What role does the TBA’s Independent Division play in preserving the community banking model so that a town in a more rural area can continue to be home to a banking headquarters?

The Independent Division has served for a long time in providing bankers with ideas to remain competitive in whatever environment or markets we find ourselves. And our board has utilized the training at the Bank Directors Retreat for almost a decade. That has really helped them in understanding how to think about credit and capital, in particular.

Ultimately, all banks must provide a fair return to our owners. The Division provides us as leaders with ideas to do so. Sometimes it occurs in formal training sessions; other times it is informally through valuable networking opportunities.

What is the greatest challenge that you anticipate for a community bank like yours in 5 or 10 years that is not a significant issue today?

Government agencies and the abuse of Executive Orders are eroding the foreseeable nature of the rules under which all business operates. This basic predictability of the U.S. markets is being taken for granted; however, as predictability erodes it creates an environment of volatility, which is very difficult to manage. For independent bankers, this means we must take additional steps to manage this, such as obtaining additional collateral for loans, or maintaining additional liquidity, or holding additional capital to protect EVE. The additional measures we as bankers are forced to take serve as unnecessary cost to the various communities that we serve. Alas, few understand or even recognize that it is happening.

For instance, the CPFB could choke off business lending in rural markets through Section 1071 in the next five years, or it could completely cease to exist based on a Supreme Court ruling. Those are very different outcomes that we are having to manage towards. Had the legislation creating the agency been crafted properly to limit abuse and properly oversee/fund it, binary outcomes could have been avoided.

What are some leadership traits or advice that you rely on to guide the bank through those transitions?

I strive to lead quietly and with humility, thankful that the Lord has blessed us as bankers with a unique place in our communities. I also strive to remain as flexible and as grateful as I can. DeWayne Olive of F&M Bank is a valued friend and mentor who taught me to always help others better themselves.

I frequently share a wide range of quotes with our staff with the goal of resonating with each team member at some point. Here is a poem that I have shared with them as an example.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy.

I awoke and found that life was duty.

I acted. And behold—

Duty was joy.”

–Rabindranath Tagore

As a member of the Board of Trustees for The Southeastern School of Banking you spent some time with the students during their week of school in July. What do you think students who are early in their banking careers should be most excited about ahead of them?

I try to remind my team that, as bankers we are at the intersection between the needs of those with excess cash and those who need additional funds. Creating win-win relationships with all of those that we interact with is our great desire. Those who attend The Southeastern School of Banking are equipped with additional tools to carry that out. One of our team members who attended about five years ago still frequently references her schooling and has a good grasp of why we make management decisions. I remain very thankful we sent her.

In planning and preparing for the Bank Directors Retreat, what would you say is the most important factor for a bank director to succeed in their role?

We emphasize that people’s trust is based on two things—character and competence. Our board is comprised of men and women of very high character, and over the years the Retreat has only increased its technical competence.  Perhaps the best moment I remember sitting around our board table was when one of my directors exhibited both traits. He knew enough to ask a tough question, and his character was such that we were willing to do so, even though he knew that it would make me uncomfortable.

As someone with a unique vantage point, what advice would you give to a young professional considering a career in community banking?

If you strive to give more than you receive, it is amazing how those blessings come back in abundance. As community bankers, helping local people and tailoring to their individual needs is incredibly rewarding. We often get to see up the impact we are having in our communities. I know of no other industry that gets to help so many people in so many ways. Often the recipients never even know!

Which committees are you interesting in joining?

Your Information

Bank Address