Q&A with Philip Calahan

Philip Calahan with his daughter, Annmarie, wife, Paige, and daughter, Caitlin, at Caitlin’s 2020 Coffee County High School graduation.

Philip Calahan is the president and CEO of Peoples Bank & Trust Company in Manchester, Tenn., a $112 million bank founded in 1907. Calahan began his banking career with the Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions as a bank examiner and later, a bank financial analyst in the Application Section. After working with the TDFI for six years, he began his lending career as a vice president and loan officer with First Community Bank of Bedford County in Shelbyville, where he stayed for 15 years. In 2011, Elmer Morris, then president and CEO of Peoples Bank & Trust Company, offered Calahan the opportunity to join Peoples Bank & Trust Company to succeed him upon his retirement. In 2012, Calahan was elected president by the board, and in 2013, he took on the title of CEO.

You are a dedicated advocate for the important role the Independent Division can play in preserving the community banking model. What do you see as the biggest challenge facing community banks? 

There are many challenges facing community banks. One of the biggest challenges is finding ways to become more efficient while investing in technology to compete with credit unions, Fintechs and larger banks, which have greater resources than most community banks. It is important we have great partnerships with outside service providers who can assist with IT, compliance, software, and auditing services to make us a stronger bank. Another great challenge is attracting and retaining future leaders for management succession. I believe this is a contributing factor of why we are seeing so many community banks merge today.

At $112 million in assets, Peoples Bank & Trust Company is among the smallest quarter of banks in the state according to asset size. What is one operational advantage that comes with being a bank of your size?

The main operational advantage for a bank our size is that we are small enough to know our customers very well, and we can tailor a solution to meet their needs in a quick and responsive way.

Peoples Bank & Trust, sponsor of Stuff the Bus, collects school supplies for our Coffee County students each July. Each year the bank donates 750 binders to Coffee County Schools to give to students in need.

What is the best piece of advice you have received from a leader or mentor throughout your career? 

I was very fortunate to have two great banker mentors, Sydney “Bud” McGrew and Billy Hicks, who helped me become the banker I am today. Bud and Billy taught me to look for ways to help customers achieve their goals by putting myself in their shoes prior to giving my best advice. Our customers are coming to us for sound financial advice, which can change their future. Anyone can lend money, but you also have to earn trust to be a valued financial partner and ultimately share in his or her success.

As a director of your bank, and in planning and preparing for the Bank Directors Retreat this fall, what do you think is the most important factor in a bank director being high achieving within their role? 

As banking and our economy evolves, it is important for bank directors to have the skills and knowledge to adapt to a rapidly changing economic and banking landscape.  I know Colin Barrett and the Independent Board has worked hard to provide a Bank Directors program on October 28 that includes educational and relevant topics every bank director needs to be successful in this challenging environment.

If the Peoples Bank & Trust Company team was asked about your mantra or leadership style during the pandemic crisis, what would they most likely say? 

I think they would say my leadership style during the pandemic crisis is to trust and empower our team to help our customers, knowing I would support their decisions. We have to adapt to the daily challenges and overcome the obstacles that we and our customers face. We look for new digital technology and delivery channels to meet the customers’ needs in the quickest and safest way.

The pandemic has required everyone to adapt to new methods of delivering and receiving services. In some ways, this can be perceived as a benefit of the forced adaptation and acceleration of technology as a means to delivering essential services. Can you offer one way that your banking services changed and that you plan to continue into recovery?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we did not offer online account opening or an online lending platform because it was too expensive for a bank of our size. Since the pandemic, we have worked with our loan and deposit software vender to offer a service that we can securely deliver a new deposit account or loan documents to the customer’s smartphone, tablet, or computer, and they can sign the forms on their device and securely send the documents back for processing. This has provided a quicker and better customer experience and helped us become more efficient. 

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