The ‘BankHERS’ of Legends Bank

By Roger Shirley

Prior to 2019, Britney Campbell had lived in Clarksville her entire life—it’s where she grew up, went to school, went to college and started her banking career. So when Campbell decided to move, it was a big step for the senior vice president for marketing and public relations for Clarksville-based Legends Bank.

Never mind that it was only about 45 miles down the road to Nashville.

That decision followed conversations with Legends Bank president and CEO Tommy Bates about how Campbell could best help the $660 million bank increase its presence in Nashville and raise its profile in the highly competitive market.

Campbell’s move to Nashville in the fall of 2019 turned out to be the first step in launching Her Bank, a brand of Legends Bank financial services exclusively targeted toward women, particularly business owners, entrepreneurs and executives who might be attracted to the idea of doing business with a team of female bankers. Her Bank launched in May with an event in Nashville, but taking it from a general concept to a reality was the result of many discussions, strategy sessions, and refining the branding’s look and feel.

Those early discussions included Campbell and three of her longtime colleagues and friends—veteran bankers Amelia Magette, vice president/business banking; Kasey Hempel, senior vice president/treasury management and digital solutions; and Sabrina Joiner, senior vice president/operations. Together, they would form what would become the Her Bank team.

Strategic Move to Plug In

Legends Bank, founded in 1998 by former chairman/CEO Billy Atkins, Bates and other investors, established itself as one of the top market leaders in Clarksville, and in 2011 it acquired the Brentwood branch operation of Red Mountain Bank. The Birmingham-based bank had decided it wanted out after dipping its toes in the Nashville-area market. Two years later, Legends opened a branch in Nashville proper.

Bates and Campbell concluded she could best tackle business development initiatives by moving to Music City, allowing her to begin replicating the kind of community involvement and networking relationships she had successfully built in her hometown.

She was up for the challenge. After moving to the Sylvan Park/Nations area of West Nashville, Campbell began exploring her new neighborhood.

“When I moved in the fall of ‘19, I was trying to figure out places in my neighborhood to identify with, to hang out, shop, and explore,” said Campbell, who began working with Legends while attending Austin Peay State University and joined full time after graduating in 2003 with a business administration degree. “I ran across a place about a mile from my house called L&L Market (a former pantyhose factory renovated into a hub for specialty food, retail, and lifestyle spaces).”

“I saw a post on social media that a women’s co-working space was going to be added at L&L in the beginning of 2020. I wanted to see if that was a place I could plug in, and really just start to build a community and get to know people, because this new space would attract small business owners and other women in business. The membership was relatively small at the time, but after connecting with the owner, we began discussing opportunities and mutual benefits between the bank and members. I signed up immediately!”

Campbell and her new acquaintances created a Women and Wealth series with a couple of other women who were there to provide benefits to those at the co-working space. During that development process, Campbell was able to reach out to a lot of the women to learn what information they were interested in, and how Legends could serve as a resource for them.

“During those conversations I discovered many of them didn’t really have true relationships with their bankers. Either their husbands or other men in their lives had taken a lot of that responsibility, and/or they didn’t have the resources. Where I saw a gap, I also saw opportunity.”

That’s where the idea behind what would become Her Bank was planted and began to sprout.

“See What Happens”

“As our team talked through this, it became clear we couldn’t do something that was flashy and feminine just to attract women,” Campbell said. “It had to have some depth to it. Amelia, Kasey, and Sabrina each have their own areas of expertise and experience to bring to the relationships we develop, and they really helped build out the concept of how we could support this brand given the huge shift toward digital banking.”

They strategized that Her Bank could provide its female customers with the existing products and services offered by Legends while ensuring they would be dealing with women bankers. Magette and Hempel would be the core consumer-facing “bankHERs,” while Campbell would be the connector and serve more in the business development and marketing function. Joiner, with her years of experience in all aspects of banking, would be instrumental in supporting the functions and processes within the Her Bank experience. Other bankers (male and female) from Legends’ nine branch office locations are plugged in as needed to further fulfill customer banking needs and access to banking services.

Campbell was ready to take the next step of going to Bates and executive vice president/CFO Lee Pedigo, and then to the board. First, however, she called on Atkins to get his opinion. (Atkins, who retired in 2019 after 59 years as a Clarksville banker, not only is one of the founders,
a former CEO and a current board member of Legends Bank, but he is also Campbell’s grandfather.) She laid out the concept and asked how he thought it would go over with leadership.

“When Britney talked to me about it, I told her it was a great idea and not something you hear about anywhere else in the banking industry—that I think it’s a unique niche with a lot of potential and that you have the team who can do it,” Atkins said. His advice: “I think you should just go with it and see what happens. All they can do is say no.”

They didn’t.

“I’m sure she expected me to say no because I’m pretty tight,” Bates said with a grin. “But there is a whole movement in our industry aimed at diversity and inclusion (both in terms of staff and customers). We are focused on finding ways to reach people in new ways that we haven’t explored in the past.”

Bates said that Campbell’s early experience in Nashville showed first-hand the reality that many women entrepreneurs “didn’t necessarily feel comfortable going to see a bunch of old guys—which has been the perception and a barrier to some women when it comes to their banking experience.”

“Britney and the Her Bank team were able to start something and create a digital-first experience that we see as a pilot in how to take a sub-brand to a targeted market and be more relevant to an audience who already rely on technology and expect a digital experience from their bank,” said Bates, who worked with Atkins at First American Bank in Clarksville before it was sold to AmSouth (now Regions). “Really to me, the Her Bank experience is a great pilot program to allow us to test its success and evaluate our ability to implement it throughout the bank, and at the same time reach an important customer base.”

Creating a Buzz

“When we get back to normal times, whatever that will mean, we plan to focus on educational outreach, special events, and strategic partnerships that allow us to align Her Bank in meaningful ways within our communities. These initiatives will not only target potential new customers but also our existing female customers,” Campbell said.

“We like to think of Her Bank as a complimentary extension of the Legends Bank brand. Our existing female customers, who have a great relationship with their bankers, provide a foundation on which we want to build. This isn’t Coke and Pepsi, it’s Coke and Diet Coke. We’re only here to enhance Legends’ brand awareness and ability to provide an extraordinary experience for women. All of our products and services are the same. It’s the delivery system and access to us that’s a little different than what has traditionally been done.”

For Campbell, the Her Bank brand is a means to expand Legends Bank’s reach in new ways and beyond the traditional geographic boundaries, driven not only by digital banking but also the buzz about Her Bank that’s already occurring.

She has been a guest on the Girl Banker podcast, an informational program that began as a blog by Arkansas bank executive Natalie Bartholomew, and was a panel speaker at the ABA Bank Marketing Conference in late September. The ICBA has also expressed interest in having her speak at one of its programs.

Campbell said she has already heard from women bankers in other states who say, “If this brand decides to go national, I’d love to talk about working for you.”

For Bates, this kind of early reaction to Her Bank shows it can be not only a strong marketing and business development tool but also a boost to the bank’s diversity and inclusion initiatives aimed at both customers and employees.

“Marketing is about relationships; it’s not site-specific,” he said. Really when she came to me to talk about it, I thought it was a great opportunity for her and for the bank. Our brand is so strong in Clarksville, there’s not a lot you can do to strengthen it in Clarksville. But being new to the Nashville market, we needed a way to differentiate ourselves and gain more awareness.”

And now that Her Bank is in motion, Bates is seeing the additional benefits that are possible.

For Atkins, the concept behind Her Bank is a positive sign of the evolution that banking and society has gone through, and an idea that’s been fully embraced by the Legends Bank leadership and board.

“When they heard about the name and the concept, the board members reactions were all positive,” Atkins said. “Each of us are impacted by women in our lives and this concept made perfect sense.”

Atkins was still in high school when he started his banking career in 1960 at Northern Bank, which was sold to First American in 1988. He’s now in his seventh decade in the industry, and he’s seen both molasses-slow change and shifts that seem lightning-quick in thinking and approaches. To Atkins, Her Bank is an example of that.

“It’s the world we live in,” he said. “Can you imagine trying to do a His Bank today?”

Campbell smiled and retorted: “Y’all had that in the 1700s.”

The lighthearted exchange was symbolic of the changes seen by the three generations of bankers sitting around the conference table discussing Her Bank. Atkins started his banking career in the 1960s, Bates in the ‘80s, and Campbell in the 2000s. Each one has experienced these changes from different viewpoints during their careers and personal lives, but as bankers, they understand that success is driven by how well they adapt to the trends of today and the future.

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