Craig Holley, with remarks from Kenny Dyer III, on joining Pinnacle Financial Partners
As told to Drake Farmer
Mergers can be difficult, but our merger with Pinnacle couldn’t have gone any better. Of the seven or eight mergers I’ve been involved with, I’ve never seen one go as smoothly as this. We think it has to do, largely, with Pinnacle being a values-driven company; they shared that with CapitalMark.
When we decided to start a new bank, CapitalMark, in 2007, people asked “Why?” Chattanooga had about 15 banks at that time – all of them great institutions with highly regarded bankers – but there really wasn’t a dominant community bank. We saw an opportunity to do something different. Our focus was on making it easy to do business with us. That’s since been the model.
Then came the recession, at a time when roughly 170 new banks had recently opened across the nation.
This group of banks has come to be known as the Class of ’07. Unable to survive the economic downturn, many closed their doors – which is unfortunate. Thankfully, CapitalMark benefited from Chattanooga’s stable market. Because of companies like Volkswagen moving to the area, Chattanooga didn’t experience the economic downturn as drastically as other cities.
Chattanooga sees good, steady growth, and we want to help with that growth.
We raised $35 million – at that time, the largest private capital raise in the state of Tennessee. We went from having no presence in the market, to being the fourth largest bank with only one location – downtown. We saw a tremendous amount of success right out of the gate.
No doubt, the No. 1 reason we’ve been successful is because of the people we’ve got. At the end of the day, it’s the people who create your sustainable advantage. We have some of the best bankers in the market.
Our success, coupled with growing national interest in Chattanooga, won us a lot of attention from a number of financial institutions. Technology played a role as well. When we started CapitalMark, we were able to start with a blank slate, whereas our friends at larger banks were often saddled with outdated legacy systems that had been in place since the 1970s and 80s.
Pinnacle was really the only bank we considered selling to. Since opening in 2000, Pinnacle has been one of the top performing banks in the nation. We ultimately decided to sell based on the desire to benefit our shareholders, our community, our clients and our employees.
Our shareholders were able to trade into a very valuable currency – that’s something that was important to us. Pinnacle stock has continued to do well since we sold to them.
CapitalMark was working to be a good corporate citizen, and that’s a strong focus for Pinnacle. We’re now putting a lot more money back into the community and we think it’s crucial to be involved.
The third compelling reason we sold was to benefit our clients. By partnering with Pinnacle, we are able to offer additional services. We now offer mortgage products that are designed for lower income citizens, and we’ve grown our loan portfolio, year over year, about 30 percent. Core deposits have gone up 34 percent year over year.
As for our employees – Pinnacle’s philosophy is that a happy workplace generates happy associates, which leads to happy clients and ultimately happy shareholders. At Pinnacle, every associate participates in the incentive plan, and every associate owns stock in the company. The better the company does, the better the employees as shareholders do. We win together and we lose together.
While much of this is a look back, we’re also focused on the future. Pinnacle has helped us expand to high-growth markets in Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia, and we’re looking at other locations across the Southeast.
We recently held the official opening for our Shallowford office, and we’re committed to opening one office a year for the next several years to cover some key submarkets.
We’re focused on growing our presence in Chattanooga, and we’ve hired 18 financial advisors – that’s what we call bankers – since our merger in July 2015, each with at least 10 years of experience.
Our partnership with Pinnacle has really worked out well.
“I was downtown one day – right as I was graduating from UTC, Mr. George Clark (Clark's family members were the founders and principal shareholders of Pioneer Bank) pulled me in off the street for an interview – I was in jeans and a t-shirt. I was an accounting major at UTC, and I graduated on a Saturday and was at work on Monday.” – Kenny Dyer III, Chattanooga President
“Kenny was one of the first alums I met when I began working at McCallie many years ago,” says Mitzi Smith, Director of Donor Relations at McCallie School. “He quickly became, and continues to be, one of our go-to volunteers because when he is asked to do something, you know he will see it through. Kenny represents the best of each of the character traits contained in McCallie's core values – honor, truth, duty. His foundation is solid and I am certain his strong sense of self has contributed to his professional and personal success.”
“Kenny started his career in this building, and now – in his twilight years – kidding! He’s not that old. — He’s back in this building. He moved about 20 feet from where he started.
“As for me, I thought I’d take a job in the banking industry until I figured out what I wanted to do. I started working for the First National Bank in Birmingham in 1979 – they eventually changed their name to AmSouth. I ended up working there for 26 years before I left to start CapitalMark. We both kind of stumbled across those opportunities.” – Craig Holley, Chattanooga Chairman
“I’ve known Craig for years and he’s been on our Board for nearly a decade. He’s amazing at motivating people, a great listener, a wonderful role model and teacher,” says Virginia Anne Sharber, Director of the Hunter Museum of American Art. “He gives wonderful advice that gets to the crux of the situation you’re dealing with, and he always has time for you.”