Jasper seen as hub of national bank’s presence in Georgia
Stearns Bank recently appointed Dick Carlton as the national bank’s Georgia president.
Carlton has worked in Georgia banks for 35 years, most recently serving as EVP and president of two community banks in this state.
He has been married for 32 years to Vicki, who is also a banker in Atlanta. They have a son, Matt, who attends Kennesaw State University. The couple live in north Cherokee County. Carlton is president of the Canton Rotary Club.
Here is a recent Q&A with Stearns Bank’s Dick Carlton:
Q: As the new Georgia president, what are some of your focuses for the three banks in Georgia in the coming year? Any new direction you'd like to see the bank take to advance their position locally in Pickens?
A: Over the past four weeks, I have spent the majority of my time getting to the know the remarkably talented Stearns’ banking team in Georgia and meeting with bank clients, prospects and community members to introduce myself and to offer my services in helping them achieve their objectives. The reception has been better than my wildest expectations
Stearns is committed to the Georgia market, with Jasper as its hub, and has the expertise and products to assist individuals and businesses with their banking needs. While new to Stearns, I have long been an admirer of the bank’s financial strength and historical performance. That financial strength along with the bank’s “we get the job done” philosophy and signs of an improving economy will enable the Georgia operation to grow in terms of size and employees.
In the coming year, we will look to expand our relationships with existing clients. We will look to help our existing business clients expand those businesses as opportunities for growth arise. We are out in the community meeting with new and current clients offering a full menu of services at competitive rates and terms, including CD’s, home mortgages, conventional commercial loans and SBA and USDA loans. Additionally, we are offering options such as solutions from Stearns’ commercial leasing division that can provide an attractive alternative to conventional financing on capital assets.
Q: What are some of the key trends in the banking industry, particularly community banks, that you believe will have an impact on Stearns Bank over the next few years?
A: Competition and the potential for a continued troubled economy are two of the biggest issues facing the banking industry. The economy will dictate the number of growth opportunities for banks; therefore, it will be incumbent upon financial institutions to be flexible and responsive in their dealings with prospects and clients. Flexibility and responsiveness will insure higher prospect to client conversion and higher client satisfaction and loyalty. Financial institutions that determine and then promote the concept that “one size doesn’t fit all” and deal with their opportunities with a sense of urgency will rule the day. Flexibility and responsiveness are two hallmarks of Stearns’ operating model.
Q: How many employees do you have at the three Georgia branches?
A: 38... In Pickens? 32 -- The goal is to expand the number of associates as the bank grows in Georgia.
Q: What’s your banking philosophy?
A: • Determine local market needs and then to tailor bank products to meet those needs.
• Be responsive. Make decisions and communicate those decisions with a sense of urgency. That is as important in delivering bad news as it is in delivering good news.
• Acknowledge that there is risk involved with all aspects of life including banking. Take the necessary steps to mitigate the risk to an acceptable level. Do what’s necessary but don’t overdo it once the risk has reached an acceptable level.
• Be flexible and accepting of change.
• Banks and their associates should be active, contributing members of their communities.
One of the many things that drew my interest to becoming a part of the Stearns’ family was that many tenants of my philosophy were similar to those expressed by Stearns. This philosophy is best illustrated by the company’s Top 10 “NOs”: No busy work; No top heavy staff; No overdoing rules; No time wasting meetings; No excuses; No unnecessary anything; No fear of being different; No substituting reams of paperwork for productivity; No throwing away money; No end to the possibilities.
Q: The Progress interviewed Norm Skalicky a couple of years ago right after the takeover of JBC and he said the basic premise of Stearns Bank is as a "small community bank that tries to keep bureaucracy out of their operations". Is that still a major component of the bank's view for its operations?
A: I am relatively new to Stearns but my experience to date has been one of open communications; quick, well thought out decisions; and a willingness to do business. It is not uncommon to be able to talk to Norm immediately on a major issue, to get his input and to reach a decision within a minimal amount of time. Stearns lack of bureaucracy in an organization of our size is truly an exception to the general rule. It enables the bank to be responsive to the needs of our clients.
Q: Skalicky also said at the time that the bank operates "in a conservative way". Is that still a main directive of the bank?
A: All banks espouse operating “in a conservative way”. Everyone, all over the world, has come to learn over the past 5 years that that credo, while often spoken, is not always followed. Historically, Stearns has found a way to meet clients’ needs, to grow the balance sheet with loans, to generate earnings that are some of the highest in the industry and to have some of the best operating ratios in the industry. Those are significant results in any period, but are particularly impressive during the economy of the last few years.
Q: Has Stearns been able to maintain its financial strength during these trying times, specifically in Pickens?
A: Stearns’ financial strength is almost unparalleled in the industry and the bank has been able to maintain that financial strength through sound operations in difficult economic times. The associates in Pickens have done a tremendous job in resolving issues over the past 15 months and will continue to work with our clients to resolve any remaining issues. We are ready, willing and able to do business in Pickens County and surrounding communities. As a conventional lender and a Preferred Small Business Lender, we offer competitive terms with the ability to approve and process loans in-house to deliver a fast response that will surprise people the first time, but will then become the expectation as our relationship with them grows.