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VOL. 10 | NO. 23 | Saturday, June 3, 2017

Gladney’s Career Path Leads Her To New Role at Commercial Bank & Trust

By Don Wade

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When she was a freshman in high school, an English teacher identified Andrea Gladney’s writing talent and encouraged it. She loved to read and write, so it only seemed logical to start her college life at Ole Miss as an English major.

As children, Andrea Gladney and her friends played as pretend bankers. Now she’s community president for Commercial Bank & Trust’s local market. (Memphis News/Houston Cofield)

Maybe she would work in journalism. Or if her grandest dreams were to come true, write the Great American Novel.

“Then I think I met some cynical people who said, ‘What are you going to do with an English degree?’ and abruptly made a career change,” Gladney said.

Ultimately, she graduated Ole Miss with a degree in banking and finance. She met her husband-to-be, Tom Gladney, at Ole Miss and they settled in Batesville, Mississippi, his hometown; she had grown up in Dallas.

Her first banking job was as a customer service representative and receptionist at a small community bank in Batesville. From there, in 1990, she has come to the point of recently being named community president for Commercial Bank & Trust Co.’s Memphis market.

It’s not a typical path in the industry, starting at a true entry-level position and becoming an executive. Willis Frazer was one of her bosses at that community bank in Batesville, which was bought by a larger institution. Today he is an executive vice president at Planters Bank.

“The unique thing about her is she started out from scratch,” Frazer said. “But she displayed ability, knowledge and a desire to move forward. We could tell she wouldn’t be satisfied to just be a CSR (customer service representative) and open bank accounts.”

When Gladney thinks back on her childhood, however, there was some foreshadowing: living room games with friends where they even created their own pretend bank drive-thru window. Everyone had a part to play, she says, adding, “I was always bossy and I was always the banker.”

She doesn’t come off as bossy now, just calm and confident. Part of what attracted her to telling people’s stories was the chance to get to know people and be involved in what they were doing. Studying bank and finance at Ole Miss, she didn’t know that opportunity would be waiting in the banking industry.

“I didn’t realize in school, when I was studying finance, how much of a people business that banking is,” Gladney said. “They don’t teach you that piece.”

Frazer quickly recognized that Gladney had a natural touch.

“She was a real people person,” he said. “Like a lot of jobs in life, it’s how you deal with the person on the other side of your desk rather than how much you know.”

But she knew enough to keep moving up. In 2000, Gladney moved to DeSoto County and went to work for BancorpSouth as a commercial loan officer. In 2003, she helped open a loan production office for a bank that no longer exists and was moved up to oversee several branches. She left in 2009 join to join Commercial Bank & Trust as a commercial lender.

At 49, she’s now been in the banking business almost 30 years. Her daughter, Mary Morgan, followed in her footsteps and works for Raymond James in the public finance division.

The industry has changed over time and Gladney says there is both more competition and more regulation.

“We’re a small community bank and the best way we compete is on our service and our staff,” she said. “If you’re a bigger bank, sometimes they can compete with product and rate, some technology, they’re a little bit more cutting-edge sometimes.

“I have friends that work at all size banks – most of my friends are probably bankers – but you would never call our bank and get a 1-800 number. If they want to talk to me, they have my cellphone. Our clients call and they get me. At our size we can be real nimble and adjust our products to meet a client’s specific needs. We can tailor to the different cycles in their business.”

And being at a smaller bank has allowed her to maintain the personal connections, take a more individual approach with someone, say, seeking a small-business loan.

“If we believe in it, we’re maybe in a position to do a little more hand-holding,” she said. “I may say, ‘Have you thought about this?’ Or, ‘How could we get to here?’ Or, ‘This is what I think it needs to look like; how can we get it there?’”

Frazer is not the least bit surprised Gladney has advanced to this point. He also believes she is probably most at home at a community bank. A mega bank with its rote, inflexible way of making decisions, not so much.

“Somebody like Andrea would lose their mind in an organization like that,” he said.

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