May 14, 2021  



Community Bankers Committee Identifies Key Issues

The GBA Community Bankers Committee met in Macon this week for a full day of conversation, idea sharing and identifying key issues bankers statewide are seeking solutions to conquer. Led by committee Chair John Barker, First Bank of Pike, Molena, and Vice Chair Greg Eiford, TC Federal Bank, Thomasville, the 22 bank presidents discussed local market conditions, successes with the Paycheck Protection Program and the overall health of the industry and the state’s economy. Common themes revolved around deploying excess deposits, filling key positions in the tight labor market, building on the broad adoption of technology seen during the pandemic and navigating all things housing, from construction lending to dealing with historic input cost increases such as lumber, to mortgage financing. GBA Associate Member representative to the committee, Elaine Demarest, Demarest Strategy Group, Hilton Head, weighed in with summaries from the 11 President/CEO, FinOps and Leadership Roundtables she facilitates. Balance sheet growth, increasing loan to deposit ratios, addressing margin compression with new non-interest income strategies, managing competitive loan and deposit pricing, getting past the government stimulus programs, ALLL and reserve levels were top of mind issues. A subcommittee has begun planning the program for the annual President/CEO Conference sponsored by the Committee and slated for Sept. 26-28 at the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds at Lake Oconee. With questions, contact Kathy Friestad.


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Banking’s Bright Future on Display at GBA Schools

GBA’s two advanced bank management schools wrapped up in Athens last week with lots to celebrate. One hundred and forty bankers participated in the school session, with 37 bankers earning their Georgia Banking School diplomas and 19 compliance officers completing year-one of their two-year program.


Georgia Banking School Summary

Class of 2021

GBA Chairman Elect Luke Flatt, AB&T, gave the commencement address for the Georgia Banking School graduates, imploring the students to continue their leadership path in the industry. “I’ve got to say that I feel very confident in the industry’s future after meeting some of you here today and watching some of the bank simulation presentations. I know your CEOs feel the same way about you. You all are ready to lead, and the future is bright,” he said. “As graduates from the Georgia Banking School, you join company of thousands of career banking leaders in our state who are the standard bearers for your peers.” Here’s a list of all the graduates. See photos from the schools on the GBA Facebook page, here.


Georgia Banking School Honors


Graduate of distinction honors this year went to Julia Mirts of Phoenix Outcomes, a mortgage technology firm. Mirts worked for a member bank until recently when she made a bit of a career change to help care for her parents. She was determined to finish her banking school journey, and really made a mark with her dedication and performance. As Graduate of Distinction, Mirts receives a first-year scholarship to attend the Graduate School of Banking at LSU next year. Congratulations also to honors graduates Jonathan Blackledge, Ameris Bank, Atlanta; Timothy Burnsed, Ameris Bank, Savannah; Deesha Hagwood, Oconee State Bank, Watkinsville; and Marcus Roland, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Lakeland; who all finished in the top 10% of the class.


A Bank Executive Simulation
team gives their presentation

Bank Executive Simulation Superstars

For the first time anyone can remember, two teams tied for top honors in the Bank Executive simulation that is the highlight of the third-year class time on campus. Team 2 members were Deesha Hagwood, Oconee State Bank, Watkinsville; Lindsay Jones, Community Bank of Pickens County, Jasper; Adam McCown, Renasant Bank, Cartersville; Ben Perry, Bank of Monticello, Monticello; and Garrett Smith, Glennville Bank. Team 4 members were: Jannefer Barker, Synovus Bank, Atlanta; Dave Davidson, SunMark Community Bank, Perry; Victoria Morris, BankSouth, Greensboro; Marcus Roland, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Lakeland; and Daniel Simpson, Greater Community Bank, Calhoun.


Williams leads the GBA
Compliance School

Compliance School Shines

The first year GBA Compliance School curriculum set the foundation for participants to build toward an advanced career. "Banks are compliance-oriented businesses, and these professionals are committed to making sure their banks do the right thing every day, Compliance is one of the fastest-growing and most complex professions within a bank. The GBA Compliance School participants are better equipped than ever to lead their banks’ efforts to serve their customers and communities,” said Thomas Williams, director of the GBA Compliance School and senior compliance officer at United Bank in Griffin. The members of the class elected peers as leaders. Class President is Angela Woodward, Great Oaks Bank, Eastman, and Class Secretary is Tracy Holland, Citizens Bank & Trust, Trenton. Congratulations to all the participants for completing year one.


With questions or to express interest in enrolling for next year, contact Alison Moreau, 404.420.2034.


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New location: Athens, GA!

The BSA Experience Returns: Only 30 spots available!

We’re teaming up with Terri Sands of Secura Risk Management to present the third annual BSA Experience! This year’s program was designed to provide the most pressing topics for BSA officers and support teams such as regulatory expectations, emerging trends that impact your daily BSA, increased fraud and changes to the BSA laws and regulation such as the updated FinCEN guidance on Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020. This year, we are offering a great program that provides subject matter experts and practical tools to simplify BSA compliance. In addition, each attendee will leave with two certificates to reflect the completion of The BSA Experience. Click here to learn more and register here.


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Summary of Flash Leadership Communications

Our series of time-sensitive emails to member CEOs, committee members and other key contacts continued this week with several updates. Top of mind this week for many has been the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack. We shared some important information about the incident from the FBI, Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity Infrastructure & Security Agency (CISA), as well as a link to subscribe to the CISA updates. We know bank security and IT teams have been dialed in to this. We also shared some updated PPP statistics showing that even with the program winding down, many Georgia small businesses continued to get important funding. The data indicate 5,888 Georgia borrowers received loans totaling $113,803,157 during the previous week, with an average loan size of $19,328. Other topics included details about higher-education grants for Georgia institutions provided by the American Rescue Act, and links to earmark requests made by members of the Georgia U.S. House delegation. If you’d like more information about any of those topics, contact Joe, 404.420.2026.


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Little League Life Lessons and the Importance of Face-to-Face Interactions with Wes Smith

Wes Smith, senior vice president and area executive for SouthState Bank in Smyrna, started his first job at the age of 13 keeping books for his local Little League. “You might not expect that to be very stressful, but parents would get really excited about whether little Bobby’s infield ‘hit’ was scored as a single or an error when the third baseman tripped over his own feet trying to field the ball. Learning how to take incomplete data, form an opinion and defend that position to others is a skill that I still use today,” he said. A member of the Georgia Banking School Board of Directors, Smith shares his views on the importance of face-to-face interactions and close interpersonal relationships in today’s increasingly technology-driven banking landscape as well as what got him into banking, what drives his involvement with the 60-year-old school, surprising hobbies and interests and more in the latest GBA Member Profile.


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CFPB Combats Housing Insecurity

The CFPB has an initiative underway to help consumers should they be facing foreclosure or eviction. The bureau’s Housing Portal has tons of resources for homeowners and renters. Your customers may find these helpful if they’re in financial distress. The portal has links to videos, emails and various communications for consumers and lenders. Find all the resources at the portal here.


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FDIC Risk Review

Resilient Industry Set to Meet Challenges

The FDIC published it’s 2021 Risk Review this week and noted how well the industry navigated the tremendous challenges of 2020 and emphasized the strong position banks are in to continue to meet a variety of uncertainties. Key risks identified included continued low rates, heightened credit risk and a variety of other pressures on bank earnings. Read the report here.


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Congress Considers “Secure Act 2.0” for Retirement Plans

On May 5, the U.S. House and Ways Committee voted unanimously to send the bipartisan “Securing a Strong Retirement Act” to the full House for consideration. The “Secure Act 2.0” builds on the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act that was approved in 2019. Due to the retirement crisis in America, it’s essential to find easier pathways to saving and encouraging workers to plan for retirement. This legislation expands automatic enrollment, simplifies many retirement plan rules, and strengthens an employer’s ability to offer retirement plans.


Key changes that this legislation would put into place include:

  • Financial incentives for small businesses to offer retirement plans and would require, beginning in 2023, automatic enrollment with annual automatic increases for employees who don’t opt out.

  • Keeps in place the $6,500 annual catch up contribution amount for those over age 50, but also expands the catch-up amount to $10,000 annually for participants between ages 62 and 64. However, the bill also requires that catch up contributions be made as “Roth” contributions- presumably to allow the government to reap the income tax benefits sooner than it otherwise would.

  • Increases the RMD age from 72 to age 73, starting in 2022, and increase to age 74 starting in 2029, and age 75 starting in 2032.

  • Shortens the period in which long-term, part-time employees are required to become eligible for their employer’s retirement plan from three year to two years.

  • Provides a statutory basis for employers to adopt a feature to use matching contributions for student loan payments.

  • Expands self-correction opportunities, including for participant loan errors and employee elective deferral failures.

  • Creates a national database for Americans to find lost retirement accounts.

Everything in the new legislation has bi-partisan support, so Congress is likely to pass it. GBA Retirement Services will monitor and notify you as the bill progresses and if it receives full approval. Please contact Mandy Richards at 404.420.2025 for more information.


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Compensation Survey Open for Data Submission

Data collection for our 2021 Georgia Banking Compensation Survey is ongoing. We encourage members to participate in building the most complete data set on banking compensation and pay practices in Georgia. Here’s a detailed description about the benefits of participating and a sample of the information the reports provide. Participating banks get a significant discount off the survey report. Participant pricing will be $595, and non-participant pricing will be $1,375. Past participants were emailed a packet April 1 from Pearl Meyer’s Rhonda Snyder, If you need information or want to participate, contact Snyder or GBA’s David Oliver.


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GBA Strategic Partner FMS Helps Banks with Marketing, Branding, Social Media and More

Digital marketing channels such as email, social media, blogs, online display ads, search engine optimization, and search engine and mobile marketing are important for winning new business from today's bank customers. GBA Strategic Partner Financial Marketing Solutions, or simply FMS, is a group of strategists and creative thinkers who serve banks, and only banks. The bank brands and other projects that endeavor to create are unique, crafted with care, personal devotion and obvious passion. Creativity is critically important to them, but their work also has to be strategic or it’s just marketing fluff. FMS knows that a solid brand campaign will accomplish goals, impact the bottom line, affect positive change and be memorable recognizable no matter where your customers are. The GBA has been proud to endorse FMS as a GBA Strategic Partner since 2007. For more information, please contact Sean Hockenbery of FMS at 615.591.2073.


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Back by popular demand, great for newcomers to the industry!

GBA Webinar: Breaking into Banking 101 – June 23

Commercial banking can be intimidating because of its complexity and the risk-oriented nature of the work. This webinar is a clear and thorough introduction to the key concepts, terminology and processes involved in credit and lending. It doesn’t assume much prior knowledge of the topic, so it’s ideal for those in their first year in the industry. Learners will walk away with a clear understanding of their job and how their specific role fits into the bank’s overall profitability goals. Speaker: Andy Keusal, Keusal Learning. For all the details and to register, click here.


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Your Bank’s Discover Debit Card will be Customers’ First Choice When They Pull Out Their Wallet

A robust debit card portfolio can help you generate more revenue right now. Has your bank’s debit card program been on autopilot for too long? VISA and MasterCard will likely fight to keep your business, but Discover Debit wants to invest in your bank, your customers and your community. By implementing Discover’s debit card program, you will realize an immediate impact on your interchange income and expense. Discover® Debit is the only program that delivers superior economics, simplified rules, fee transparency and unmatched program flexibility. To find out more, contact Jim Lumadue,, 716.743.0118.


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In-Person, Single-Day Programs

Summer Seminars: ISO and New-Account

  • Information Security Officer Seminar – May 19
    Speaker: Tom Hinkel of Safe Systems
    Sponsored by Safe Systems
    Learn more here. 


  • New-Account Documentation and Compliance Seminar – Aug. 10
    Speaker: Suzie Jones of Training Resources Consulting
    Learn more here.

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Join live or purchase a recording!

May Webinars + June All Access Pass

Do you have a webinar subscription package? Save 10-30% with a subscription package (details here). Use your credits on the webinars below or purchase webinars individually. View the full calendar here. Questions? Email

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Recruit, Retain and Develop the Best Bankers with GBA Career Solutions


GBA Job Bank - GBA will post open positions, free of charge, for GBA members. See the open positions in Georgia here. We will also post professional summaries for bank-job seekers on our Bankers Available page. To make the process easy and answer any questions, we've developed this Q & A. Please contact Katina Prokos, 404.420.2021.


GBA Strategic Partner BankTalentHQ - The central feature of BankTalentHQ is its national bank-job board. Other key benefits include: resume search access, regional and national reach for your open positions, frequent special offers and custom sales/coaching programs. Visit BankTalentHQ to learn more. See the open positions in Georgia here, or search regionally or nationally here.


GBA’s Career Paths for Bankers™ - GBA’s Career Paths for Bankers™ is the most unique, organized and easy-to-use career development resource available for bankers and banks. GBA’s pioneering career development resource is unlike any other in the banking industry. Click here to start mapping your banking career today.


Why do people choose careers in banking? Whatever their talents, interests and educational background, there is a career in banking for them. Here are few good reasons to share with folks you know.


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Atlanta - Cadence Bank

Keith Prather has joined the bank’s Georgia commercial banking team as senior vice president and relationship manager, Northeast Georgia commercial lending.


Atlanta - Georgia Banking Company

An investor group led by Bartow Morgan Jr., has completed the acquisition of the Georgia Banking Company. Read more here.


Columbus - Synovus Bank

The bank recently opened a new location in Atlanta’s Upper Westside. The Marietta Boulevard branch is located at 2211 Marietta Boulevard, across the street from the new Westside Village at Moores Mill development. Bob Millar will manage the branch. Read more here.


Douglas - Pineland Bank

Shelia Butler has joined the bank as a lender.


Dublin - Citizens Bank of Laurens County

Senior Vice President June Moore will retire May 28 after more than 61 years in the banking industry in Dublin-Laurens County. Click here to see the news story from WMAZ.


Greenville, S.C. - United Community Bank

United Community Banks, Inc. announced that its Advisory Services division will be expanding through the acquisition of FinTrust Capital Partners, LLC, and its operating subsidiaries FinTrust Capital Advisors, LLC, FinTrust Capital Benefit Group, LLC and FinTrust Brokerage Services, LLC.


Tifton - the former First Community Bank of Tifton

Our sympathies to the family, friends and former colleagues of Johnnie Ruth Pickren Nalls of Tifton, who died May 7 at age 90. Nalls retired from First Community Bank of Tifton in 1995 after 40 years in banking. She was a Georgia Banking School graduate and served as chair of GBA’s Women in Banking Committee in 1977. Read more here.


Watkinsville - Oconee State Bank

The bank recently celebrated the launch of ATM Deposit Automation with branch events.


Washington, D.C. - United States Senate

Our sympathies to the family, friends and former colleagues of former U.S. Sen. David Gambrell, who died last week after what his family said was a brief period of declining health. He was 91. Gambrell was appointed to the U.S. Senate by then-Gov. Jimmy Carter to fill the unexpired term of U.S. Sen. Richard Russell, who had died. Gambrell was a member of the Senate Banking Committee during his two years in the Senate. Read more here.


Washington, D.C. - OCC

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appointed Michael Hsu to serve as first deputy comptroller of the currency. Hsu will also serve as acting comptroller until a new comptroller is appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Blake Paulson, who has served in the acting comptroller role since January, will return to his role as senior deputy comptroller and chief operating officer at the OCC. Read more here.



Prather Synovus Bank Butler Moore


Nalls Oconee State Bank Gambrell


Read All About It: Send Us Your News

Please remember to include the Georgia Bankers Association on the list of recipients for announcements about promotions, new employees and special recognition your bank has received. We want to share your news with your colleagues across the state. Please forward your announcements and photos to GBA's Katina Prokos.

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