VOL. 132 | NO. 83 | Wednesday, April 26, 2017
First Horizon CEO: Bank on Right Course
By Andy Meek
During a pause in remarks from its CEO, a familiar voice broke the silence in the auditorium of First Tennessee Bank’s Downtown headquarters Tuesday, April 25, during the annual meeting for shareholders of the bank’s parent company.
“Our brand is well-known and respected,” First Horizon National Corp. chairman and CEO Bryan Jordan told attendees. “We’ve built deep and long-lasting relationships with our customers and our community.”
There was brief silence, which allowed everyone to easily hear the next sound – the recognizable voice of the iPhone’s voice assistant Siri: “Sorry, I didn’t get that.”
Over a chorus of laughter, Jordan smiled and offered to repeat himself. “Our brand is well-known and respected.” This has never happened before, Jordan said as an aside, before continuing his remarks.
It was a rare unscripted moment in what for the last few years have been tight, brief annual meetings of the largest bank based in the state. They’ve tended to last about 10 minutes, feature no questions from shareholders and win easy approval of all items up for consideration in the company’s proxy statement, and this year’s kept to that trend.
That, in itself, is also a kind of statement about First Horizon’s run of late – methodically focused on the basics, sticking to its knitting and making occasional forays into new markets and business opportunities.
To that end, some of the bank’s results during 2016 included:
• Retaining First Tennessee’s No. 1 deposit share ranking in Tennessee. The bank also expanded its specialty banking services by attracting bankers focused on franchise finance, health care finance, music industry banking and structured equipment finance.
• Total shareholder return for 2016 was 40 percent. The bank also increased its annual common dividend rate by 17 percent to 28 cents per share during 2016, and average loans at First Tennessee were up 15 percent during the year, following a similar rise in 2015.
• Giving back was also something of a theme for the year. The First Tennessee Foundation made nearly $5 million in grants and matching gifts in 2016, in addition to the newly created $50 million First Tennessee Community Development Fund. That fund will award up to $3 million each year in grants to organizations serving low- to moderate-income people and neighborhoods.
• The bank is also offering financial empowerment services through its collaboration with Operation HOPE, and the bank expects to have 15 Operation HOPE locations in branches across its markets by the end of 2017. Operation HOPE seeks to empower underserved communities with programs that include homebuyers’ assistance, small business entrepreneurship and credit counseling.
All items up for approval at FHN’s annual meeting, meanwhile, passed with wide margins, including a vote on 11 directors; a so-called “say on pay” advisory resolution on executive compensation; and a ratification of the company’s appointment of KPMG LLP as auditors.
Turning attention briefly to Washington, D.C., Jordan told shareholders the company is “encouraged” by recent rate increases from the Federal Reserve and that First Horizon is positioned to benefit from future rate hikes. For the next several years, he added, the nation’s economic growth and interest rates will likely rise “at a modest but steady pace.”
“We’re minimizing the rough spots and maximizing our strengths,” he said. “We continue to increase profitability at our established businesses and look for new businesses that play to those strengths … First Horizon has a proven track record of overcoming challenges and remaining on course to achieve our goals.”