GBA Member Profile

Cristi Donahue
EVP, Chief Retail Officer
Oconee State Bank, Watkinsville
Vice Chair, GBA Women in Banking Committee
At Large Member, GBA Security Committee

Q: What was your first job, and was there a lesson you learned there that you still use today?
A: My first job was as a cashier at a small hometown grocery store where I grew up in Covington. The lesson I learned there was how to serve others and to always be kind. You just never know what’s happening in someone else’s life.

Q:  What drew you to the banking industry and/or the bank security field?
A: I worked at a bank during my freshman and sophomore years of college and, once I moved to Atlanta to finish college, during interim breaks, holidays, and over the summer.  I decided to stick with it after college until I found my calling. Little did I know, banking was my calling. I fell into bank security when I was named the Bank’s Security Officer in 2005, a title I’ve been honored to hold since then. Since I oversee our branch locations and facilities, it seemed like a natural fit when the previous security officer retired. In today’s world, the biggest threat to bank security is employee complacency and it’s my goal to ensure our team members remain alert and well-trained on what to do in any emergency situation.

Q: When you think about the future of the banking industry, what makes you hopeful and what makes you concerned?
A: I am most hopeful about innovation, the ability for banks to evolve along with the needs of our customers, especially in the digital transformation space. Creating a digital-first, friction-free customer experience adds so much value to the customer, while at the same time providing a bank with tremendous gains in efficiency as well.

On the other side of that coin, I’m most concerned that banks will lose sight of the importance of branch banking and miss the opportunity to create a true hybrid approach within their delivery channels. In order to capture the full, life-long, relationship of a customer, banks will need to continue to offer face-to-face financial advisement in a welcoming way.

Q: If you could thank someone for becoming the professional you are today, who would it be and why?
A: There are so many I need to thank for their mentoring over the years. If I had to name just one person, I would say my dad. He taught me the value of hard work, how to lean into failure (but get right back up, dust off my knees, and get back at it), that someone always contributes to your success so thank them and then become that person for someone else, and to always bend down and grab the hand of someone coming up behind you in the ranks. I always watched him and my mom constantly doing for others, which is now instilled on my heart and part of my mission. Banking is a great way to carry forth that personal mission.

Q:  What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
A: I’m the baby of six with 20 years difference between myself and my oldest sibling – so I had many role models over the years to garner wisdom and mentoring.  My claim to fame is that Mickey Mantle is a cousin on my mom’s side of the family.