Helen T. Caldwell
Class of 2016 Honor Graduate, Georgia Banking School
Group Vice President
Cash Management Officer
Queensborough National Bank & Trust
My Banking School Journey began in January of 2014 during a meeting with my boss, Jay Forrester. I had been with Georgia Bank & Trust (now South State Bank) for eight years and had been tasked with staring the bank’s cash management program. My entire banking career had been focused on the deposit side of the bank. I had never served the company in a lending or credit administration role. During this meeting, Jay handed me the application for the GBA Georgia Banking School. My first response to Jay was, “But I am not a lender.” Jay encouraged me that this challenge was something I could do and should do to further my career in banking. I apprehensively accepted his nomination to attend the school.
My first year of Georgia Banking School was in May of 2014. Thankfully, I had two people from the Augusta Market (all of us represented different banks) in my class. As the week went on, I spent time with and got to know other class members. I was so encouraged to find a diverse and knowledgeable group of people. Our class was made up of lenders, credit underwriters, retail, accounting, agriculture lenders and operations.
Our class shared the ups and downs of the courses. Some people loved the Commercial Lending class while other hung on every word of Bank Financial Analysis. Either way, we were exposed to and learned every area of the bank. The first-year papers stretched me and gave me the opportunity to research topics such as the difference between state chartered banks and national banks (and their corresponding regulatory authorities). I was given the opportunity to discuss pain points with my bank’s senior management and wrote a letter to our U.S. Representative about the importance of lobbying for Credit Unions to pay taxes if they are allowed to compete in the banking space in regard to commercial lending.
My second year of Georgia Banking School started out very interesting as I was five months pregnant with my third child. That week was even more fun than the first year, as our class was so excited to be back together again. The curriculum was more rigorous during this year but, it was so much fun. Our class spent time outside of the classroom studying and discussing how our respective banks were structured and/or how we handled certain challenges we all faced in our industry. We all learned from each other. Our grader was very accommodating as I submitted all of my papers early due to taking maternity leave in September. My class knew when my daughter was born and they celebrated with our family. It has been wonderful to have friends in the banking industry across the state of Georgia!
The third year of Banking School was all about the Bank Simulation program! This year was one of the best experiences of my banking career. All of the papers were behind us, and now we had the opportunity to put all we had learned to work. We started the week with our assigned team. My team was made up of a market president, commercial lender and small town agriculture and consumer lender. We hit the ground running on Sunday making our first bank decision. What transpired over the next week was incredible. We connected as a team, collaborated and learned the effects our decisions made on every area of the bank. We learned from our mistakes and grew as bankers. The last day of that week was bittersweet. We were excited to see our accomplishment of completing a very challenging, yet rewarding, three years. We were all sad that we would not be back together again as a group. Many of us are still in touch and communicate through social media. The friendships that were formed during Georgia Banking School are very special and ones that will last a lifetime.
As you can see, attending the Georgia Banking School was a pivotal time in my career. I tell my students, “You will get out of banking school what you put into it.” I would encourage any banker (at any knowledge level) who is considering applying to the Georgia Banking School to go for it! You will be a better banker, a better team member and a better community leader because of it.
I attribute much of my growth and personal development in the banking industry to my experiences in banking school. It was such a special time, and I look forward to giving back to an organization that provided so much to me. I graduated in 2016 as an Honor Graduate and will return this May for my third year as a faculty member.
Thank you to the GBA, the Georgia Banking School Board of Directors and to Jay Forrester, who gave me the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible organization. Your time, energy and dedication are making huge impacts in bankers such as me across the state of Georgia.