First Horizon Shuffles Ranks To Guide Growth

By Andy Meek

Several top executives of First Tennessee Bank have been moving into new offices over the past few weeks as the 145-year-old company has shuffled its upper ranks and named new heads of important business lines.

Bryan Jordan

The bank is a subsidiary of Memphis-based First Horizon National Corp., whose president and CEO, Bryan Jordan, just passed the one-year mark as head of the company. He’s helped slim down the banking giant, a process that began before he arrived.

One of the clearest examples of that pre-Jordan strategy came last September, when First Horizon jettisoned most of its out-of-state mortgage business, which it had been expanding for years. Jordan ascended to the executive suite soon after.

Meanwhile, the management changes – which include a few prominent new hires – are a continued part of that drive toward efficiency for First Horizon, which has more than $28 billion in assets and about 6,000 employees.

A flatter world

Charles Burkett, president of banking for First Tennessee, described the moves as a “flattening” of the organization.

Mike Edwards

The changes include moving Mike Edwards from his position as Tennessee banking president to head the bank’s Memphis and Mid-South market. Edwards knows the local market well after working as regional president several years ago in Germantown.

Nashville regional president Tony Thompson is moving to a new role as head of Nashville’s commercial banking group. Taking his place as regional president will be Doyle Rippee, whose resume stretches back more than 30 years and includes stints with Bank of America Inc., Regions Financial Corp. and Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc.

Doyle Rippee

The other regional market presidents are Frank Schriner, who will head First Tennessee’s Chattanooga/Southeast market; Pam Fansler, who will lead the bank’s Knoxville and East Tennessee market; and Newt Raff, tapped to lead the bank’s Northeast Tennessee market.

The market presidents will report to Burkett. Commercial, business banking, private client and retail managers will report to the presidents in each market.

“What we’re saying is we’re going to have managers focused on these specific lines of business,” Burkett said. “It provides more focus on lines of business and on customers who fall within those lines of business. It’s a structure that streamlines and flattens the organization somewhat and lets us focus on the customers.”

On point

The five market presidents are key to that strategy, and so are the five executives who have been named to manage different aspects of the company’s businesses.

Christine Munson and King Purnell – a former regional president of SunTrust Bank in East Tennessee – will manage corporate banking and commercial real estate groups across the state, respectively, and will report to Burkett.

First Tennessee is still looking to fill the slot of a retail banking manager.

Chip Knight is the new commercial banking manager. Chip Higgins and Rhomes Aur will head business banking and private client/wealth management, respectively. Those managers will report to David Popwell, chief operating officer for First Tennessee’s banking group.

Executives at the bank and its parent company see that restructuring as part of a larger, strategic repositioning of the bank’s staff and resources to remain dominant in the markets it serves.

In a recent interview with The Daily News, Jordan said the changes are about continuing to grow and progress in Tennessee.

First Horizon’s stock is up more than 20 percent so far this year.

“I think as I look at our opportunity and our organization, we’ve got a tremendous chance to grow our core banking business,” Jordan said. “I think one thing we’ve all learned in this repositioning of the global financial system is that relationships are vitally important. In some sense that’s a positive for customers, and it’s a positive for us. So that’s a big area of focus for us.”