Seizing Opportunity with Strength in Recruiting

Seizing Opportunity with Strength in Recruiting

By Terry Turner, President and CEO, Pinnacle Financial Partners

June 28, 2021

The late, great Bobby Unser said, “Success is where opportunity and preparation meet.” No one could argue with Bobby’s success across decades of racing, due largely to his obsession with details and meticulous knowledge of roads he traveled.

I believe few could argue with Pinnacle’s success, either.

As optimism rises and business owners switch from survival mode to a growth mindset, we’re starting to get a glimpse of what America’s post-pandemic economy will look like. While some questions remain, particularly around the American workforce, I continue to see an awful lot of opportunity. And we’ve been preparing for the last 21 years to seize it.

As is our model, much of that opportunity is in hiring the best bankers in the best markets in the Southeast.

In Huntsville and Birmingham, AL, we’ve recruited 13 financial services veterans to set up shop and bring in their best commercial clients from across the region.

In Atlanta, we’re up to 28 associates in just a year and a half since our entry to that market, including three brought on in April and May with 90 years of experience between them.

Debbie Clarke on the South Carolina Coast and Jerry Bailey in Central North Carolina, each with 40 years in banking, joined us this year to serve clients and build commercial lending teams of their own. Likewise with Alan Scrimager in Memphis, who has 20 years under his belt.

Mike Skorich in High Point, NC, came on board in February as managing director of loan syndications with 20 years of experience.

Chris Rutledge in Chattanooga joined earlier this month after 26 years at SunTrust/Truist.

You get the picture. After a record year for hiring in 2019 (85 revenue producers) and again in 2020 (90 revenue producers), 2021 is on pace to beat them both. In the first quarter alone, Pinnacle hired another 25.

That’s the name of the game for us, both quantitatively and qualitatively. We hire in huge numbers, but our recruits are also the cream of the crop, the top-tier talent in each market we serve or want to expand into.

Hiring means loan growth, as each new banker works to bring their book of business to Pinnacle. More importantly it means higher quality loan growth, because they get to pick and choose which clients and credits to pursue. And it means long-tail loan growth thanks to the number of years it takes to move those client relationships, giving us continued opportunities to grow our balance sheet even in times of soft loan demand. 

That last point is especially important today with the incredible amount of liquidity many businesses have after a year of government stimulus and building pandemic reserves—another example of our preparation enabling us to succeed.

Our recruiting power also means we have the chance to expand into essentially any high-value market we please when the opportunity arises. Huntsville and Birmingham are two perfect examples.

They’re great markets. Birmingham is the 11th largest MSA in the Southeast, and Huntsville is one of the fastest growing. Both are primed for our brand of banking and hold tremendous potential for our firm. They’ve never, however, been on our traditional map of top target markets.

But the opportunity was there to bring on two incredible teams of veteran financial professionals who fit our culture and love to serve their clients. We were prepared for that thanks to another of our recent high-profile hires, Sam Belk, former commercial banking manager for much of the Southeast at Wells Fargo. We brought Sam to Pinnacle because he’s a tremendous person and one of the best recruiters of talent I’ve ever seen.

He’s one of many leaders we’ve brought on board recently for just that purpose: Join us at Pinnacle to serve your clients better and build your dream team of talented bankers.

Attracting the best has been our strategy since the beginning. Now, as it has for 21 years, it’s prepared us to seize opportunities in the hottest markets in the Southeast.

Opportunistic expansions like Birmingham and Huntsville are only possible because our model is so easy for us to replicate.

We built our bank for a geographic focus with local control centered on people over systems of bureaucracy. This model has been successful in every market we enter because it gives associates and clients what they want most—freedom to do their jobs and make decisions.

Also because we hire the very best, including on the support side, we can be nimble and responsive to set up shop quickly and capitalize on opportunities when they appear.

I’ve spoken extensively about why Pinnacle is a magnet for the best talent in the Southeast. It’s our culture, our people-centric approach and our genuine care for each and every associate. It’s our unique combination of community bank service with the sophisticated tools and deep resources of a much larger firm. It’s because we’ve earned a place on FORTUNE magazine’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work for five years in a row and won dozens of other national, regional and local workplace awards.

That reputation stands to serve us even better now than it has in the past. America’s white-collar workers, particularly young ones, have a new perspective on work, life and the line between them because of the pandemic. Their expectations of what work looks like and how their employers treat them has changed. A firm that values balance, flexibility and care for the individual will shine much brighter.

That’s our preparation. Be the best place to work and the best place to do business.

Our success comes because our competitors keep giving us so many opportunities.

Pinnacle is a challenger brand because we designed it to be the opposite of the impersonal service at the big banks that dominate the Southeast. We had the chance to start from scratch and decide how each process and procedure would work. We built something none of these established franchises can duplicate, which means they will never be able to match our style or level of service. While everyone else has been working for decades with a square peg, we had the good sense to carve a round one.

That’s never been more evident than during the pandemic. With the very best bankers and support teams on our side, Pinnacle could go deeper with each client to find out what they needed, and we were nimble enough to deliver it quickly. That agility is why Greenwich Associates ranked our firm as one of the highest in the nation on its 2020 Crisis Response Index.

With the pandemic moving behind us, Greenwich estimates 20 percent of revenue to banks is “money in motion” thanks to high levels of dissatisfaction with how large banks responded to their needs. The Paycheck Protection Program, in particular, has been a major differentiator, with Pinnacle ahead of the pack once again.

With that as a backdrop, every bit of turmoil in the banking experience takes on added significance for clients and associates. The opportunities for takeaway created by a merger are amplified. A difficult work environment is less tolerable. A poor service experience betrays a troubling pattern.

Our strong fundamentals will continue to prepare us for these opportunities. Like Wayne Gretzky, we’ve been skating to where the puck will be for 21 years. The troubles of 2020 slowed everyone temporarily, but we emerged much more quickly than others. Now that our markets are growing once again, our pipelines are full and our people are ready.

Opportunities abound. Onward to success.