Susan Stephenson, CEO and co-founder of Independent Bank, has enjoyed a long and successful career in banking.
The bank she leads now, for example, is the second largest bank based in Memphis as ranked by assets. During the economic bust a few years ago, she and Independent’s leadership turned down an opportunity to participate in the federal government’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.
The bank didn’t need it.
Independent has a still relatively new wealth management component to its business, and it’s opened a mortgage operation recently that Stephenson is especially excited about.
All this, from one of Memphis’ most prominent women business leaders who, by her own admission, recalls only going through the business building on campus twice in her college career.
Like all professional careers, Stephenson’s has included an element of luck, of being at the right place at the right time. But her career also has been shaped by her eagerness to learn, to challenge herself and to not hesitate to walk through open doors of opportunity when they presented themselves.
Stephenson will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming Daily News “Women & Business Seminar,” happening Feb. 28 in the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Auditorium. CBIZ MHM Thompson Dunavant, Mid-South Drug Testing and Jackson Lewis LLP sponsor the seminar, scheduled for 3:30 p.m..
“It’s always interesting to go back and think about how life works out,” Stephenson said. “I got into banking by accident.”
She recalls handing out resumes to as many people as she could. A church friend took her resume to someone at First Tennessee Bank. That led to an interview with someone in the bank’s training program.
The Daily News’ “Women & Business Seminar”
Feb. 28, 3:30 p.m.
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art Auditorium
$25 registration fee
“He hired me before he realized I had no skills,” Stephenson laughed. “That’s the truth. I was a liberal arts major. History and English.”
She wasn’t a traditional candidate for the job, because she didn’t come from a business or finance background. What she did have, though, is a willingness to learn, the personality of a manager and leader, and the capacity for self-improvement.
As her career continued to twist and turn, she ended up spending almost a decade with First Tennessee, then almost a decade with Boatmen’s Bank. And she’s now been at Independent Bank for 15 years.
“When Boatmen’s Bank gave me the chance to run the bank in Tennessee, I was only 37 years old,” she said. “It was a bold thing to do. I was a female, and I was young. But they were willing, because they knew I was passionate and deeply committed. So it was a great thing.
“I have benefited enormously from all the women who paid their dues for a long time before I ever came onto the scene. I’m not only in their debt because they created a great foundation that let people see women had the capacity to do things, but I’m also in their debt because the world wasn’t ready for them to have the opportunities they created for me. I’ve been a beneficiary of a lot of things that went before me.”
For more information about The Daily News Seminars, go to seminars.memphisdailynews.com.