Sidney L. Roland III
Senior Vice President
Southern Bank & Trust
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 teller at a small downtown branch of Cornelia Bank. I was placed there with the head teller, who was very popular and had a strong customer base. I was able to see firsthand how she treated her customers and kept a loyal following. My teller line window would be empty, while hers had 10 customers waiting. I would ask if I could help the next customer in her line, but they would decline just so they could speak to her and have her take care of their banking needs. What I learned from this experience was how to treat your customers with a respectful, helpful and a caring attitude to gain their trust so they would remain loyal to you throughout your banking career. I still try to carry these traits with me today as I recently began my 40th year of community banking.
Q: Tell us about your career journey. What drew you to banking, and what has kept you there?
A: I was attending Piedmont College here in Habersham County where I have now lived for my 58 years. A part-time position opened up at Cornelia Bank, and with my love for numbers, helping people and being a business major, it seemed like a perfect fit. Forty years later, I can say that it has been a very rewarding career. I spent my first 25 years in banking with Community Bank & Trust. I left in 2005 to help organize a de novo bank called Southern Bank & Trust. The bank is currently in the process of being acquired by Pinnacle Bank, and I look forward to continuing my role as a lender in a community bank environment with new leadership. I have remained in banking because I enjoy listening to the needs of the locals in our community and working on a game plan to help them reach their goals. My 40-year banking journey in the same community has allowed me to work with many people I call friends.
Q: You're the 2020 Chairman of the Habersham Chamber of Commerce. What has driven your involvement in the Chamber, and how does it relate to your role as a banker?
A: I have been involved in the Habersham County Chamber for a number of years and believe the local chamber of a rural community is vital to the growth of our small business community. I am the chamber chairman for 2020 and look forward to building on what our chamber has accomplished over the last couple years. We are in an area of rapid growth, and I want to make sure we are growing in ways that are smart for our community. I believe that, as a chamber leader and an experienced banker, I play an important part in elevating the quality of life for our business community and the way of life for the citizens of Habersham County. I enjoy “doing life” together with my customers and friends, whether it be at a high school football game, the grocery store, the post office, at the ballfield or at church on Sunday. It is important for me to be involved in all aspects of our community. Our Habersham Chamber tagline is “It’s Happening Here,” and I can say that it truly is!
Q: When you think about the future of banking in Georgia, what makes you hopeful and what makes you fearful?
A: My hope for the future of banking is that the community bank model will not die but grow and remain a vital part of rural communities across our state. The local folks in our rural areas need to know that they matter and can bank the way they have in the past. At Southern Bank & Trust, our tag line is “You are banking with friends.” Our customers will continue to want that personal touch. As a lifelong community banker, my fear would be that the personal touch will be lost forever and that every customer will just become a number to a larger bank. The local bank has always played such a vital role in a small community because of the way they give back in so many different ways. My hope is that will never fade away.
Q: What would someone be surprised to know about you?
A: I played the conga and djembe drums for many years in a worship band at my church. I am left-handed and proud of it.