Thanks to a leadership succession strategy established a few years ago, the promotion of John McDearman to bank president at the beginning of 2018 was scheduled well in advance, but you may not yet be familiar with this new face in our top ranks. Here’s part one of a recent conversation with the rising executive and future CEO.
Q: Did you grow up dreaming of a career in banking, or some other field?
JM: I originally wanted to be a dentist, and was majoring in biology in college. At one point I was selling books door-to-door over the summer, and I began to see a career in business as more of a possibility. I took more business courses, at first as a backup plan, and that led to an opportunity in finance. My dad worked for a community savings & loan, so it was a fairly natural progression.
Q: How did you come to join Wilson Bank & Trust?
JM: I was a branch manager for Nations Bank in Chattanooga. My wife’s family was there, we liked the area, and there were some potential for advancement in my career, so we were pretty settled. Randall Clemons, who knew my father, called out of the blue in 1998 to see if I had an interest in working for a community bank. My boss at the time actually encouraged me to consider that route.
I came in to meet with the executives at Wilson Bank on a Sunday. I didn’t really know Randall or Elmer, but I knew Gary Whitaker from when our paths had crossed earlier in my career, so it was good to at least have a familiar face in the room. As it turned out, the interview was much less about my skills than about who I was as a person, because that’s what they considered most important. That was a unique perspective and it made a real impression on me. I’m glad to say it’s a philosophy that we continue to use now. That was a big reason I knew I wanted to be part of this team, even when there were opportunities to go to larger organizations or big cities.
Q: What was your path from entry-level management to president of the bank?
JM: In my first few months, I was training in commercial lending, and I thought that would be the route my career would take. Then the Baddour Parkway office lost a manager, and I was asked to fill that position. Even though it wasn’t a turn I was expecting, it helped me learn all about the retail banking side of WB&T, and it proved to be a really valuable experience. I don’t know that I would be where I am if I hadn’t been given that opportunity, or if I hadn’t been completely open to the idea of serving where I was most needed, wherever that was – another valuable lesson that I’ve always tried to carry with me. After four years as a branch manager, I came back to the Main Office, working with Randall and learning about business loans, and later I became a regional president when that position was created in the Lebanon market. The different roles gave me unique experiences and new perspectives, and each helped prepare me for that next step.
Q: As a competitive golfer in school, what were some of your athletic highlights, and how did sports help prepare you for the business world?
JM: I got the competitive gene – and a love for golf – from my mom, and enjoyed some success in junior golf. In college I was able to compete in an OVC championship, and that was special. Being an athlete and going to school was very similar to having a full-time job, one that really required prioritization and managing time wisely. More than that, I can definitely draw some parallels today between work and the game – like having integrity and self discipline, even in an industry where there’s so much regulation and monitoring from outside our walls.
Q: Do you still play?
JM: I didn’t play much for a while, but more recently the golf course has been a place where I can spend quality time with my sons, who have picked up the game to different degrees. That’s another great thing about WBT - we’re a company that encourages finding that balance with home life, and making time for family.
Q: Top executives wear many hats, but if you had to boil down your objectives in the role of president to just a few at this point, what would they be?
JM: I would say one of my most important jobs is to be the chief encourager. Another is to cast the vision, and make sure we’re supporting that in our day-to-day tasks – providing a road map to show how we get there.
Watch for the rest of this Q&A on our blog soon.Back to Blog