MEET OUR TEAM
A CONVERSATION WITH OUR CEO, GREG MCKEE
All Things Local And Small
“Walk into any community bank. Chances are, the teller knows your name. Look to the left, and there sits the owner himself, the same one that underwrote your first mortgage, way back when your high school-aged daughter was a baby. Because of that, he knows you’re a safe risk for the college loan you’re here to apply for. And he’ll probably give it to you.”
ABA Banking Journal
As consumers everywhere gravitate toward everything local, they are also taking a closer look at local banks. The Citizens Bank is no exception as evidenced by our growth in Mississippi since we were founded here in 1908 and became a publicly traded company in 1999.
As printed in the East Mississippi Business Journal when we celebrated our 100-year-old birthday:
“It was 1908, and the place was Philadelphia, Mississippi. This rural, unassuming town, known for its southern hospitality and good, hardworking people, stood poised to make its mark in the world. A small group of Philadelphia’s community leaders felt something in the wind—and they saw the community’s potential to grow beyond its historic agricultural base without sacrificing its unique way of life.
This forward-looking group of visionaries realized the need to help their citizens, to turn ideas into enterprises, concepts into companies, through financial institutions who would change Philadelphia and east Mississippi forever.”
East Mississippi Business Journal
Today, The Citizens Bank is continuing to help the citizens and communities across east central Mississippi by adding new branches and new products and services, with over 250 employees working to serve their hometowns.
We sat down with The Citizens Bank’s CEO Greg McKee to catch up and talk about his vision for the bank he has led since 2002.
You joined the bank over 30 years ago starting out as a management trainee. Did you ever think you’d be CEO one day?
No, I never expected that to happen. I always felt I could make a positive contribution to the bank, but probably in a support capacity to someone else. For me to be chosen to lead this company and this great group of people seems almost an act of divine intervention.
Your mother has worked here for over 50 years, as have several employees. What keeps them here so long?
As cliché as it may sound, we are really like a family here. To many of our long time employees, their bank family and their customer relationships are a very important part of their lives.
When you arrive at work every day, what is your mission?
To make sure that all decisions made and actions taken that day contribute to the health of the company and community (both long and short term).
What can be attributed to the bank’s growth from one branch in 1908 to today’s 21 branches in nine counties?
Simply put, analyzing markets and determining if there might be a need for our type of banking for that community. Then we attempt to always staff those branches with individuals native to that community if possible.
What role has The Citizens Bank played in Mississippi’s economic growth? What role will the bank play in the region’s future?
I would like to think that for the past 105 years, this bank has been a large part of building our local communities and thus helped build the economy of the state. We have done this one relationship at a time whether that was an individual, a family or a business.
Are there any businesses that have been customers with the bank during the last 100 years or so?
Probably the most well known local business would be Williams Bros. in Philadelphia. There are numerous families that are multi-generational customers that go all the way back to the beginning of the bank.
How do community banks strengthen the local and national economy?
Community banks have traditionally been the common thread that runs through most economic transactions in any community. Without a strong community bank in an area, the people don’t have the feeling of having a local “partner” when they have a financial need.
With so many banks just about the bottom line, why is The Citizens Bank so involved with the community?
We recognize that we as a bank will never do any better financially or otherwise than the community as a whole does. This is the root of our commitment to be involved in anything that is good for the community. We have to give consideration to the bottom line, and we do. But, if we take good care of our customers, communities and employees, the earnings and return to our shareholders will be good as well.
Experts say that community banks are the coming trend. What do they offer the big banks don’t?
I think the biggest thing a community bank offers is knowledge of the local market and customers and the flexibility to better meet their needs.
Is The Citizens Bank just more approachable than the big banks?
When your banker is your child’s little league/soccer coach or your Sunday school teacher, etc. it makes us very accessible. You don’t start the discussion with unfamiliarity because the relationship is already established.
Do you think larger banks could do what The Citizens Bank does for customers? Why not?
Technically and Regulatory, Yes
But not when it comes to the relationships we have. I am not sure that a customer of a nationwide bank would have anything but an 800 number to call for assistance. Our bank staff are local people that our customers know and know how to contact, and not only during office hours.
How is technology changing The Citizens Bank, and how has The Citizens Bank not changed?
Our delivery channels have changed and will continue to do so. But we still have dedicated, knowledgeable employees managing and overseeing those channels.
What kind of customer comes here?
Our customers are individuals that want all the services that a large bank offers, but still wants to be called by name and recognized as a valued individual. Many of our customers are actually descendants of customers from decades ago.
What is your vision for the bank’s next 100 years?
To make sure that the bank is positioned financially to be sound going forward. To be sure that culturally and technologically we are forward looking in our thoughts, but in a way that maintains the things that have made us what we are while acquiring new tools to keep the bank and our customers up to date.
I would like to think that in the years to come we will maintain our culture of a strong community bank while growing and carrying our customer focused operations into new markets across the region. I truly believe that we have something in our bank that it is becoming less prominent in many banks. That is, we care about our customers and their well being. I hope we foster that to a degree that it is still evident 100 years from now.