Greg Smithers joined Boatmen’s Bank of Tennessee in Memphis in 1989 and rose to manager of small business lending. In 1993, he moved to First Tennessee Bank of Memphis as commercial relationship manager, eventually becoming manager of the commercial banking group. Smithers joined IberiaBank as Memphis market president in 2008 and was named regional president of Arkansas and Tennessee in 2016.
Smithers graduated from Rhodes College in Memphis in 1989 with a bachelor’s degree in international studies and economics. He grew up in Cookeville, Tennessee.
What led you to become a banker?
I always wanted to be in finance. When I graduated from college, we were in the middle of a recession. I simply wanted a job and interviewed with a number of banks. Boatmen’s Bank hired me into its management training program. It didn’t take me long to realize that banking was what I wanted to do.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy meeting clients and prospects and learning all the ways that people make money. I’m heavily involved in credit decisions, and meeting prospects and clients, seeing how their business operates, and learning how they generate revenue is time well spent. It might sound odd to some folks, but it happens to be fun also.
What are some of the hottest issues in banking?
The hottest issues don’t really change: taking care of clients and making money in a flat yield curve environment, regulation, irrational competition, etc. What bankers tend to forget is that all banks face the same issues. We all operate with a flat yield curve, ever-changing regulation and what we all deem to be irrational competition.
What are some banking developments in the Arkansas market that have caught your eye?
I’m always amazed at the level of competition in the state and the proliferation of new banks entering the market.
For example, 19 banks operate in the Jonesboro MSA; 164 operate in the Dallas MSA. Based on population, that’s one bank for every 6,369 people in Jonesboro and one bank for every 39,184 people in Dallas. Applying the Jonesboro ratio to Dallas, they should have 1,008 banks operating there. That really puts the competition into perspective.
► Largest Banks in Arkansas, ranked by total assets
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Be one of one. There’s a lot of wisdom wrapped up in those four words. It gets at differentiating yourself from the crowd, establishing a career by making yourself invaluable and having an insatiable curiosity. It applies at a personal level as well as at a bank level.
Mistakes are said to deliver some of the most meaningful lessons. What is your most important mistake that helped shape your career?
It was really mistakes by a lot of other people that helped shape my career the most. Early in my career, I was asked to go to Nashville and collect bad car paper for a two-week stint. It ended up being nine months. Believe me, that was an object lesson in the consequences of making bad loans. I saw the true cost of someone else’s mistake as I worked to collect their bad loans.
Who are your mentors, people who made a difference in your life? Without a doubt, my parents have made the biggest difference in my life. They established a great base for me to grow from. My childhood was like a “Leave It to Beaver” episode, and that’s a good thing. On the other side of the coin, one of my earliest bosses was a terrible man. I learned a tremendous amount from him relative to what not to do when dealing with associates, clients and other people.