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An Interview With Nathan Hunter, East Tennessee Regional President
What’s your story? Where did you grow up and have you always lived in Tennessee?
I am a lifelong Tennessean. Born in Brownsville, Tennessee. Attended Haywood County High School and the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
How did you get into banking?
Banking was a very deliberate choice for me. I am one of the few people that you might meet that has an undergraduate degree in banking from UT. The leaders and people that I looked up to in my home town were bankers, lawyers and doctors. I did not have much interest in medicine or law, so I pursued banking.
How is the culture different at FirstBank compared to larger banks?
Over my career, I have learned that culture is one of the most important attributes of an organization. A culture that fosters associate and client engagement is easily a significant competitive advantage. FirstBank’s core values help define our culture and set us apart from our competitors. Our mass market regional competitor’s only pay lip service to the core values that FB associates live every day.
What is your favorite part about your job?
People. Clients and Associates. Helping our associates learn and grow professionally is very rewarding. Partnering with and advising clients is equally satisfying.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I am reasonably certain it was a Cowboy!
FirstBank operates as a community bank, with the services and resources of a large bank. What advantages does that give you in your job? What about your customers?
It is the “winning play” for bankers and clients. A decentralized work environment keeps everything important to clients close to them in terms of financial services. Clients really like the fact that decisions relative to them are made locally. And when service issue arise that it is really easy to get assistance.
What do you like best about being a community banker?
Community bankers tend to focus more on people and community rather than on process and analytics.
As a Regional President, what’s your vision for FirstBank in your market areas?
First of all, I want to establish the FirstBank brand in our East Tennessee Markets and be recognized as a financial services firm with highly engaged associates that provides our clients great service and advice. My goal for service is for FirstBank to be recognizably better than where clients previously banked. Best Place to Work and Best Place to Bank!
Describe your market area in three words.
Knoxville is a moderate growth and reasonably stable market. Like most attractive urban community markets, Knoxville has plenty of banks to choose from with over 50 banks, 14 credit unions and over 300 branches. However, the FirstBank operating model with its decentralized approach is very attractive for clients and prospects.
What is Knoxville known for?
The Knoxville market is generally known as the home of the “VOLS” considering the University of Tennessee is located here. However, due to a generally stable economy and proximity to so many recreational opportunities on the water and in the mountains Knoxville has become one of the best places to live and work in the country.
What do you like best about life there?
Knoxville is a great size town. Large enough and diverse enough to satisfy a lot of different interest. Urban dwellers are attracted to the revitalized downtown Knoxville in terms of residential living choices and access to restaurants, entertainment and recreation. Less urban folks love the affordable housing and neighborhood schools with easy access to lake living and recreational options. It seems like there is something for everyone in Knoxville.
What’s your favorite lunch spot there?
Downtown its Pete’s and Café 4, after that is Bravo’s, Copper Cellar and Calhouns. For breakfast its First Watch and Scrambled Jakes.
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?
I rarely listen to the radio or music. It is “quiet time for me.”
If you could give your 20-year-old self one piece of advice, knowing what you know now, what would that advice be.
Life is not a race but a journey that requires a very deliberate balance between work, family and friends.
Have you ever had a mentor who made a difference in your life. How so?
Yes. I am lucky enough to have had two. One early in my career who helped shaped my career and gave me tremendous advice on how to be a good banker. He once told me that here was a thin line between being aggressive and stupid and my job was to be aggressive! I have always tried to walk that line on the aggressive side! My other mentor and I met mid-career and he gave me many opportunities to grow in this business. I owe him a lot.
What’s your life’s motto?
Its never work if you love what you do!
Describe your perfect vacation.
I have been very fortunate to have a lot of different experiences, but I love our annual trip to the beach with my family.
Do you prefer indoor sports or outdoor sports and why?
I like them all. Living in Knoxville its hard not to like football, baseball and basketball.
To be named as one of the 90 Best Banks To Work For, this means we work purposely every day to ensure that associates are engaged, having fun and enjoy what they are doing. American Banker conducts extensive workplace surveys and reviews employer reports on benefits and policies, basing their rankings on banks going above and beyond.
For more information on American Banker, visit www.americanbanker.com.