Leadership Change Causes Ripples at Southern Bancorp

by George Waldon  on Monday, Feb. 27, 2012 12:00 am  

"Each day, I get to switch back and forth between the two, and I love it," Black said at the time.

Black declined to comment on his decision to leave Southern Bancorp and return to conventional community banking.

The CFO position at Southern Bancorp remained vacant for seven months until 61-year-old Robert Cern was hired from Virginia, marking his return to banking after a five-year hiatus.

Recent resignations include the company's three-member human resources staff, who decided to leave despite not having new jobs lined up, according to company sources.

"There are a lot of things going on that we don't feel good about," said one Southern Bancorp staffer, referring to a change in the family-friendly corporate culture since Baldwin left.

"It's been nothing dramatic," Mjartan said, regarding any internal changes during the past year. "I think most people are optimistic and excited."

Asked to contrast the management styles of Smiley and Baldwin, Mjartan indicated there wasn't much difference.

"I'm not sure it would be fair for me to characterize his style, but Walter's style is very transparent, a direct communicator, a very healthy thing," he said. "It's not that Phil wasn't transparent. This is just from my perspective."

Mjartan discounted talk that Smiley's son Vance would be joining Southern Bancorp soon, in the newly created position of chief operating officer.

"He's strictly a contractor," Mjartan said of Vance Smiley, president of Smiley Technologies. "Some contractors become more intertwined with the company than others, and he works with the company very closely. But he has no official title with the company and is not an officer."

Smiley Technologies was launched by the Smiley family in 2002 to take on the data processing needs of Southern Bancorp.

That contract, described as an annual deal now worth $2.5 million, also includes managing the company's computer network.

Walter Smiley's daughter, Elizabeth Glasbrenner, serves on the Southern Bancorp Community Partners board of directors, overseeing Southern's nonprofit operations.

Glasbrenner also is vice president of administration at Smiley Technologies.



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