SunTrust Pursues Homegrown Leadership in Georgia

Shawndra Russell

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014

Here at Georgia CEO, we’ve conducted a series of interviews with SunTrust presidents from Savannah, Columbus, Albany and Macon. One common theme between these leaders is they have strong ties to Georgia. They were either born or reared here, attended college or have family ties to the state. Jim Manley, regional president of the Macon/Columbus/Albany region might be the most homegrown of the five. He grew up in Statesboro, attended UGA and earned his MBA from Georgia Southern. His 25 years in the banking industry has led him to his recent promotion to regional president based in Macon, where he previously served as the market president for more than seven years. 

“SunTrust has realigned itself geographically to implement an even more local, high-touch approach so we could enhance the capacity of senior leadership to be more involved in all aspects of the business, with an emphasis on clients and business development activities.  My presence in the region in recent years and my familiarity with the existing client base and overall market made it a very natural fit.  I guess you could say my selection represents good timing and the perfect synthesis of preparation meeting opportunity,” Manley says. 

His plans for the region include continuing to build on the bank’s strong reputation in the area. “I was fortunate enough to inherit a very strong team, so my goal is to continue leveraging our strengths to make it even better. We have a recognized brand of strength and stability that resonates across the region, and solid market share that we’re always looking to increase.  One of our over arching goals is to become the bank of choice for all the individual households, businesses, and institutions residing in this area, while providing world-class client experiences.”

To strengthen ties to the region and live up to their dedication to having a high-touch approach, Manley and his team prefer to sit across the table from business owners to learn from clients directly. By doing so, they are able to acquire important real-time actionable data from clients. 

Manley also utilizes resources like SunTrust’s recent business survey and local/national news to monitor the pulse of the current state of business in the region. “We are seeing a much brighter outlook than years past, and our clients are looking to build and grow,” Manley says. However, he recognizes Macon and the middle Georgia area, while not without its challenges, was more fortunate than many other areas during the recession. “We tend to have a more stable, less volatile local economy and didn’t see the declines to the extent other regions saw.  The trade-off to less volatility is, however, typically slower growth.  We have a solid local economy with many natural gifts, being located right in the center of the state. We are close to two major interstates, the Atlanta airport, a huge railroad facility, and are located only two hours from the Georgia ports. The combination of all of these things means distribution and logistics investments represent some of our best opportunities for growth and will continue to be emphasized going forward”  he adds.

Particular industries he notes as being decidedly strongest are:

a) higher education

b) professional services

c) healthcare

d) mining 

Manley also believes the improving local economy will benefit from the recent consolidation of city and county governments. “The benefits of the change, while not yet fully realized, have been articulated and the improved collaboration has already been great for our area,” he shares.

To help keep the area strong, Manley’s team is focused on retaining clients, expanding the scope of existing relationships and finding new ones. “If you take a look at our priorities, they are in line with our clients. We understand what they need because they are the same things we want for SunTrust,” he explains. “This approach has proven to be effective, since our regional group has received the highest satisfaction scores among SunTrust clients franchise wide. We’ve created a great legacy, augmented by our team approach, and love hearing that our clients are having a great experience with SunTrust.”

Another way his team contributes to strengthening the region is through volunteering - a core value of SunTrust - who was recognized recently as a 100-year Macon chamber member. To uphold that tradition of involvement, Manley’s team works with a host of organizations including, but not limited to, the United Way, Habitat for Humanity, the Consumer Credit Counseling Service, PTAs, the Board of Education, local churches, prisons, the Macon Housing Authority and Bluebird to promote financial literacy programs. “We are a purpose-driven company who strives to help others gain a sense of financial well-being. We know if people are more financially secure and literate, it is better for the community and ultimately the bank, so we clock hundreds of volunteer hours annually in the communities we serve. I love being part of an organization that emphasizes “giving back” and knowing that we’re involved in most of the significant initiatives happening in our communities is very satisfying,” Manley says.