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An Interview With Brent Ball, Knoxville, Tennessee Market President
What’s your story? Where did you grow up and have you always lived in Tennessee?
I grew up in the North Knoxville (Halls Crossroads) area. I attended the University of Tennessee. Other than a brief period in Atlanta after college, I have lived in Knoxville my entire life.
How did you get into banking?
In 2007, I was working in sales. With my accounting degree and sales background, Travis Edmondson, formerly General Counsel with Clayton Bank at the time (now Chief Banking Officer at FirstBank), talked to me about joining Clayton Bank. For the first couple years, I worked as a teller, a loan processor, and even audited mobile home parks throughout the country. One day, I got brave and asked Jim Clayton if I could be a loan officer. Thankfully, he said yes.
How is the culture different at FirstBank compared to larger banks?
FirstBank allows each market to make local decisions. A bonus for our area is that FirstBank’s East Tennessee Regional President and the Chief Banking Officer live in Knoxville. Knoxville is an extremely important market for FirstBank and key leaders within the organization live here and understand the market.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I always wanted to be a NASCAR driver. I grew up going to races and loved the atmosphere. During college, I finally tried my hand at dirt racing, which quickly led to several wrecked cars and an empty wallet.
FirstBank operates as a community bank, with the services and resources of a large bank. What advantages does this give to your customers?
Everyone wants a bank that makes them feel comfortable and provides great customer service. Not everyone thinks about the overall health of a bank or the ability to provide solutions to more complex banking needs. FirstBank excels in all the above! This allows clients to get the best of both worlds, a community bank that can provide an array of solutions without the headaches of dealing with a large bank.
What do you like best about being a community banker?
I like knowing that I have helped people in the Knoxville market go after their dreams. I love driving by a local business or a real estate project knowing that FirstBank played a small part in their success.
As a Market President, what’s your vision for FirstBank in your market area?
To make FirstBank a household name in Knoxville. To do that we need to provide unparalleled customer service to those who trust us with their banking relationship, provide a work environment that will allow us to continue to attract and retain the best bankers in the area, and give back to the Knoxville community
What is Knoxville known for?
The University of Tennessee, the Smoky Mountains, and beautiful lakes.
What do you like best about life there?
I believe it is the perfect size city and is affordable. If you want to get away, you can make the short drive to the mountains or to one of the many lakes. We have a rejuvenated, vibrant downtown with a great restaurant scene. I always enjoy going downtown for a dinner with family and friends. UT game day isn’t bad either!
Where’s your favorite lunch spot there?
I mostly choose between First Watch, Litton’s, and The Burgers. When I am downtown, I like Pete’s and Chivo.
If we got in your car and turned on some music, what are some songs that would appear on your playlist, CD or favorite radio station?
It depends on the day, but most likely classic rock or Jimmy Buffett. If I had to pick one album to listen to, it would be Nirvana “Unplugged.”
If you could give your 20-year-old self one piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what would that advice be?
Travel the world while you are young. Experience different places, cultures, and people.
Have you ever had a mentor who made a difference in your life? How so?
I have been lucky to have several. In business, it would be Jim Clayton. I got the amazing opportunity at a young age to work with one of Tennessee’s most successful businessmen. He introduced me to a network of people in Knoxville that completely changed the trajectory of my career. As I grew in my career, Mr. Clayton continued to expose me to different aspects of banking and overall general business lessons. Going on sales calls with Jim is the most fun I’ve had in my business career.
Describe your perfect vacation.
At Sanibel Island, Florida with my wife and kids. My wife has visited Sanibel since she was young and introduced me to it when we met. When you cross the bridge from Fort Myers into Sanibel, it’s like you are entering a Caribbean island. We love to ride bikes, go shelling, and just relax.
What do you do in your spare time?
My wife, two kids and I spend a lot of our free time at Norris Lake. I enjoy playing golf. My son is getting to the age where he is playing sports, so I like watching him do that, as well.
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