Story by Ian Dinkins, McNeely Pigott & Fox Public Relations
McCall Wilson had no intention of being a banker.
His father worked on the factory floor loading steel into a press for 40 years, and since he was good with his hands, Wilson figured he’d do the same. It wasn’t until he was in technical school and a teacher implored him to go to a four-year college that Wilson changed the direction of his life and ultimately found a fulfilling career in banking. Wilson transferred to Christian Brothers University and studied accounting. After graduation, he joined Reynolds, Bone, & Griesbeck PLC, one of the oldest accounting firms in Memphis with a niche in community banking, and spent 13 years working with community banks across the Southeast. He saw the tremendous impact a local bank can have on its community. He realized the banks that had the most impact on their communities had employees with a servant’s heart and felt it was their responsibility to serve their community.
When it was time to start a family, Wilson knew he was ready to get off the road and stop traveling to all the banks. Peggy Daugherty, one of the directors at The Bank of Moscow, convinced him to join the bank in 2001 with the plan to replace the current president in five or six years upon his retirement. “She said I could ‘go home for lunch, play golf, no travel, and stop working nights and weekends during tax season.’ Well… that was a little white lie,” Wilson recalled.
Instead, it was after just six months at The Bank that, the president retired and Wilson was named president and CEO. From the start, he understood employees were the key to a successful bank. Without good people, a bank is simply just bricks and mortar.
Wilson resolved to create a workplace that rewarded hard work and celebrated people and their achievements during good and bad times. Even today, employees are the largest shareholder group in the bank, and as Wilson likes to say, “The more good we do, the better we do.”
A key influence in Wilson’s life was his grandmother Carrie Wilson, who raised him as a young boy.
“She would always tell me, ‘Right don’t wrong nobody,’” he said.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to make people’s lives better, keep The Bank’s mission of facilitating commerce and make our community a better place to live,” Wilson said. “It wasn’t started 117 years ago so people could get rich. It wasn’t started to be the biggest bank in the country. It was started to help the people in our community.”
This mission of The Bank is something that Wilson truly takes pride in. It’s not a gimmick or a sales initiative, but a manifesto for his banking career. Some people go overseas to do mission work. Some people build homes for the less fortunate. McCall Wilson is a community banker.
“I love what I do. I have the best job in the world. I get to make dreams come true. It’s like Christmas every day,” he said. “Whether it is by financing a couple’s first home, a car for their child to drive to college, a repair on their home, to expand their small business or sadly to bury a loved one, our bank is there to help. Our goal is to help make our customers’ lives a little easier.”
As a leader of one of Tennessee’s independent community banks and the now the Tennessee Bankers Association, McCall Wilson must keep an eye on the future and on the opportunities and challenges on the horizon. As a community banker, he has been especially aware of the continued consolidation of banks.
“I always tell people that we’re going to be the second-largest bank in the country because everybody else is going to merge and it’s only going to be them and us left,” he said.
When he started his banking career, there were about 18,000 banks in the country. Today it’s closer to 4,000.
Wilson and his team have worked hard to stay independent and to stay involved in their community.
“If you’re owned by your community, the likelihood of your selling is a lot lower, so that’s a big reason that our ownership is centered in our communities and within our employees,” he said.
In terms of his tenure at TBA, Wilson says he is confident the association is ready to meet whatever challenges arise.
That includes ever-present issues like regulation and new challenges and opportunities like cryptocurrency.
To Wilson, the true value of the Association is that it brings people together and introduces him to bankers he may not otherwise have talked to in East or Middle Tennessee. He says departing Board Chair Allen McClary has been very helpful in getting him ready for his new duties.
“The organization is running great now, so ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’” he said. “We’re blessed to have really good people at the TBA, so we as board members are simply a resource to the people who run the organization.”
Whether he’s leading the board of the Tennessee Bankers Association or The Bank of Fayette County, McCall Wilson will be sure to have one common thread: putting people first.
“When you put a bunch of good people in the room to solve any problem, you’re going to get a pretty good answer,” he said.
When he’s not at The Bank, Wilson loves spending time with his children, Weber a sophomore at Sewanee majoring in pre-law, Mae Mae, a freshman at Parsons in New York in fashion, and Bennett, a junior at St. George’s in West Tennessee. His children grew up around the TBA and have been attending meetings since they were babies.
“Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”
That quote from E. James Rohn is famous for its simplicity, but McCall Wilson has been putting it to use for more than 30 years. Consistency and solid core values have guided Wilson through his successful banking career and will serve as similar markers as he assumes the role of board chairman at the TBA.