GBA Member Profile

Sam Giddens
Loan Officer
Wilcox County State Bank, Ocilla
Georgia Banking School, Class of 2016
Graduate School of Banking at LSU, Class of 2019

Q: How long have you been in banking, and will you share a little insight with us about how you became a career banker?

I have been in banking for four years as of February 2018. I would like to look back and say I was a career banker, but I have a little more to accomplish before I can give myself that label. I was blessed with a unique opportunity to succeed what would be the true definition of a career banker, Mr. Kermit Elliott--a banker in our community over 40 years. As he was preparing to retire, I was working with State Farm Insurance and preparing to enter the agency pool. Mr. Elliott, along with our CFO Shannon Vickers, reached out to me about becoming a lender with Wilcox County State Bank at their Ocilla branch, which operates as Irwin County State Bank. From there, it has been one of the best learning experiences of my life. I have been extremely blessed in a small amount of time. I don’t take for granted the fact that my bank immediately enrolled me into Georgia Banking School just two months after being hired. The three-year program was instrumental in my growth in lending. Within a year of completing the program, I was on my way to Baton Rouge, LA to attend the Graduate School of Banking at LSU, where I’m learning with some of the best and brightest bankers in the industry. 

Q: What are some leadership lessons you learned early on that you still use today?

The first lesson has to be about the importance customer service. I am sure there is not one person who would disagree. We bank a rural market against much larger competitors. I am a very competitive person by nature, so it is my goal everyday to give my customers the absolute best service possible. I will never forget a conversation with our bank’s CEO Mike Durden. Having retail experience from insurance sales, I asked him about dealing with marginal requests. He replied, “We cannot help everyone, but we can try. And if the credit isn’t able to be made, spend that little extra time with the customer so that they understand why it is not possible.” Our bank has a great reputation in our community because of how we service our deposit and loan customers. I truly believe we have some of the best staff in our market. It is a central priority in our bank to keep this standard of care.

Another important lesson is learning to to communicate well. That is keeping clear communication with your customers, but also your co-workers. If I ever have questions, I do not hesitate to ask someone that may have some more experience for guidance. I also try to be available for other staff in the bank that may need my assistance. Fewer mistakes are made that way.

Q: What’s your quick pitch to your peers or those younger than you, who may be considering getting into banking as a career?

I love having the ability to serve the community where I was raised. We are giving back to the community by helping others financially. The economic impact banks play in our communities is much larger than the typical consumer knows, so when the opportunity arises, I do not hesitate totry and sway someone toward considering a job in banking.

My brother, Zach Giddens, has been a banker now for 10 years, and is currently a commercial lender with Morris Bank in Dublin. I remember conversations we had when I was in college at Valdosta State University; at a time when he was young in his banking career. He was handling some large commercial credits in central Georgia and he was so excited to be a part of that process.  In those conversations, I realize he was doing exactly what I try to do with others now by leaving the same impressions that he left on me. 

Q: What are some of the reasons bankers should attend the Georgia Banking School, May 6-11?
Ultimately, the networking! For someone like myself who had limited banking experience, I would sit with classmates and just listen. It was easy to absorb the conversations because there were so many different lending cultures in the program. I still regularly reach out to the group of bankers I started Georgia Banking School with in 2014. We had an awesome class. Mr. Ernie Swift actually gave us the nod for the class that best performed the bank simulation.

It was a fantastic program that was well-planned. All those involved from the facilitators, instructors and staff work so hard at sustaining the reputation of the school. I would recommend Georgia Banking School to any banker of any skill level. I gained so much away from the school and hope to one day go back and play a supportive role. 

Q: What is one thing your GBA friends might not know about you?

I am the president of the Graduate School of Banking at LSU Class of 2019.