David R. Coxon
President & CEO
Georgia Primary Bank
Group 5 Rep., GBA Board of Directors
Group 5 Rep., GBA Credit Committee
Group 5 Rep., GBA Nominating Committee
Group 5 Rep., GBA Community Bankers Committee
Q: What was your first job, and was there a lesson you learned there that you still use today?
A: I set my sights on a career in banking when I started as a teller with Columbus Bank & Trust. Particularly in those days, tellers were often the face of the bank, and I quickly learned that most customers had their favorite.
The job helped me develop my interpersonal communication skills beyond just speaking. My non-verbal communication, negotiating and especially listening were enhanced as I dealt with customers’ financial matters, which often exposed me to a very personal understanding of the individual and their families. To this day, much of what I learned as a teller has served me well in working to develop customer relationships.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your career journey.
A: It’s hard to believe that in just a few years I will be closing in on 50 years in banking. Since I started in 1974, the Georgia banking market and the entire industry have gone through tremendous change. What was once a covenanted business to the local community often bound by county, state or region is now a global enterprise.
When I started with Columbus Bank & Trust under the leadership of James “Jimmy” H. Blanchard, he promoted the idea of banking as a people business, both inside and outside the organization, and I appreciated what that would mean in my career. CB&T provided my foundation in people skills, community involvement and what to expect as a career banker.
Mid-career, I spent a number of years with BankSouth in Macon. I had the best of both worlds, being a community banker and part of a large, Atlanta-based bank. I honed my credit skills during this time. Being exposed to everything from agricultural to international lending, I developed a deep appreciation for skilled underwriting as well as structure and legal considerations when lending the bank’s assets to protect depositors and shareholders alike.
The mentor who contributed most to my career was George H. Hall, a “banker’s banker,” who was a no nonsense, straight-talking, customer-oriented person whose heart was bigger than most will ever know. I owe my career to George.
Since 2012, I have had the privilege of working with more than 30 bankers at Georgia Primary Bank, an institution that, when I first arrived, required all of the skills I learned over the years and then some. Enduring some unbelievable economic times in the last downturn, the bank faced some tough lessons learned. It’s not something I plan on experiencing again but reinforces the importance of a bank’s role in our economy. I have always said, ‘It is easy to be a banker in good times, but what kind of banker will you be when times are not so good?’
I hope my journey is far from over!
Q: What has been a favorite memory or experience so far working in the banking industry?
A: For me, my memories have all been good, but to narrow it down, it has been all about people. Regardless of advances in technology and innovations of service delivery, people have been the highlight of coming to work each day. Engging with customers, employees and shareholders on both sides of the balance sheet is gratifying when you see positive results.
I often share with others the pride I feel when driving through various cities throughout the state and seeing businesses, houses and community organizations that exist because the bank had a hand in making someone’s dreams a reality.
Q: Explain the concept and importance of the “Pay it Forward” theme at the 2019 GBA Credit Conference.
A: 'Pay It Forward' is not just a movie -- it is an opportunity in everything we do. Throughout life we are influenced, guided and taught by others to succeed. It is from their willingness to share and teach that we are able to improve our core competencies, build knowledge and achieve success.
There is a common theme in my comments about people, and just how valuable of an asset they can be to an organization. To benefit from opportunity, individuals within an organization must be recognized as willing, hard working and always striving for improvement. But opportunity must be supported from the top down.
This year’s Credit Conference offers the chance for bank management to recognize individuals within an organization and invite them to the two-day conference in December. Supporting their participation to further their learning, network with peers and get the latest in industry knowledge is a great way to “Pay it Forward’ in building bankers today to be tomorrow’s leaders.
Q: What would someone be surprised to learn about you?
A: Interestingly, I am a naturalized citizen, having been born in Munich, Germany. My father had a career in the Army, and while in Germany, the opportunity came for my parents to adopt. I share this because this was another form of “Paying it Forward” -- No greater country, no greater opportunity!
Additionally, it may be surprising that I have been married for 43 years and have known my wife, Sandy, since she was in 4th grade. It wasn’t like I “robbed the cradle” since I am not that much older, but like my career in banking, if you love it (her), then you stay the course.