GBA Member Profile

Stephen Whittaker
Senior Credit Administrator
First National Bank of Decatur County, Bainbridge
2016 Georgia Banking School Graduate of Distinction

How long have you been in banking, and will you share a little insight with us about how you became a career banker?
My banking career began in 2011. It was a challenging but interesting time to begin a career in banking. I transitioned from the construction industry to banking, with graduate school between the two. I was inexperienced in banking, which was intimidating when faced with the prospect of finding a job during the recession. With the help of a friend in banking, I was fortunate to find a position as a credit analyst in the Atlanta area with a great group of bankers. I've since moved home to Bainbridge and my roles have changed over the years, but I’ve continually been surrounded by incredibly talented bankers who genuinely care for one another and their communities. I cannot imagine a better career than being a community banker.

What are some leadership lessons learned early on that you still use today?
Early in my career I learned two lessons that I believe contribute to the development of successful bankers, better leaders and a strong banking industry. First, invest in your fellow bankers. We've all been shaped by individuals who have invested in making us better people and better bankers. Pass it on. Do not underestimate the impact of your investment on your fellow bankers’ lives and careers. Second, learn to manage and adapt to the challenges and uncertainties in our communities and industry. Do not be afraid of change. Find a way to turn challenges and uncertainties into opportunities.

The most misunderstood thing about banking or bankers is…
The most misunderstood thing about banking is so called “bankers’ hours.” We are representatives of our banks and industry 24-7. I believe we serve our communities as much outside of normal banking hours as we do during them. But that’s OK when you consider the great amount of trust our communities place in us. Because of this trust, it is an honor to be a community banker.

What are some of the reasons why your fellow bankers should attend the Georgia Banking School, May 7-12?
The Georgia Banking School is the best investment my fellow bankers will make in their careers. Over three years you will be introduced to virtually every aspect of bank management by some of the best bankers in the state while developing lasting relationships with your peers. Every day you will put to use the knowledge and skills you gain through the Georgia Banking School. Finally, Athens and the University of Georgia are great hosts, making it not only a week that will challenge you, but also a week you will thoroughly enjoy.

When you’re not on the job at the bank or fulfilling your bank duties, what do you like to do?
Outside of banking, I enjoy spending time with friends and family as well as being active in the community. One of the great things about Bainbridge is that you can easily do both at the same time. I’m active in the Bainbridge Lions Club and in my church. The people in these organizations have become like extended family. Recently I’ve been building custom fishing rods. It’s a very unique hobby that is both technical and creative. It is perfect for me. I still have a lot to learn about building custom fishing rods, but so far I’m pleased with my work.