Q&A with Monte Jones
Chairman, Credit Committee, Tennessee Bankers Association
Community President, Commercial Bank & Trust Co., Jackson, Tenn.
Monte Jones, the Credit Committee Chairman, has been hard at work with his fellow committee members preparing for one of TBA’s most anticipated events—Credit Conference. Jones spoke with The Tennessee Banker about his career, the banking industry, and Credit Conference, which takes place February 22 and 23.
Q. What led you into the banking industry?
I was in my last semester of college and saw an ad in my hometown newspaper for an opening at one of the banks in town. I did not know much about that bank and since my father did business at their competition, he called his friend at his bank. Once my father’s friend found out that I was interested in banking, he asked me to come over and talk with him and the bank president. They did not have a job open at the time, but after our conversation, I was offered a job because “they did not want to see me go to work down the street.” Needless to say, I learned to love the banking business and have been blessed to be in it for more than 32 years.
Q. What do you find to be the most rewarding part of your role at the bank?
Relationships. I have been lucky to have great people working with me and also to have met a lot of great people in our community through banking. It is amazing to see relationships grow, whether with coworkers or with clients and to know that I had a small part in helping to influence others. I love being in a position that allows me to listen to people and help them make decisions that impact their lives. People always say “it’s just business” but most people spend the majority of their time and energy on business, so I consider it to more than “just business.”
Q. In your years as a lender, what do you see as the biggest change or challenge in how the bank meets the credit needs of the community?
The biggest change has been with the delivery of credit products. It’s a relatively simple process that has become increasingly complicated to deliver with all of the regulatory changes designed to provide transparency. It is so important today to be able to explain the process fully to a client and set the proper expectation in the delivery of credit products to them. Helping clients understand the regulations and timing of certain documents is so important. Transparency is extremely important, but honesty and dependability are things you would expect from your banker even without regulation. Additionally, the greatest challenge is educating families on loan products that are available to them and how to best handle their finances.
Q. What are the largest drivers or impediments to economic development that you see in your part of the state?
Education and income. We are lucky to have great employers in West Tennessee, but as technology changes, it is harder to find qualified workers to fill changing jobs. Today’s factory jobs have become less manual and more technical, which requires a higher level of training. With that comes the need for better technical training, demanding more funding. Also, I am concerned about the issues facing the West Tennessee agricultural community. Farming is a cornerstone of our rural communities, and the challenges all farmers face today in the cost of delivery versus the return is very troubling.
Q. As chair of the Credit Committee, you oversee the Credit Conference, which over the years has become the most attended event by Tennessee bankers. For a banker in the state that hasn’t attended before, what would you say to encourage them to participate this year?
The Conference provides lots of information on great topics related to banking, but I find the relationships made are invaluable for many reasons. It is so easy to reach out to other bankers with questions or for help when you have made contact through the conference. Attending the conference is one thing, but the key to getting the most out of it is in meeting new people and getting to know them. Also, once you attend and see how successful the conference actually is, it will make you want to get involved in the planning.
Q. You have an active Twitter presence (@MjonesMonte). What do you feel is the benefit of engaging via social media?
Twitter is interesting. I’m not a Facebook person, but I wanted to be on social media. I got started by just following some friends and then got hooked on news and sports. It’s so easy to get information immediately on Twitter, and it can be fun to share some of the silly things that are out there. I’m amazed at how many people are on social media today and how much time it actually consumes. To me, it really is just another way to stay in front of friends and clients.