Carl Barker has been in his current position as President and CEO of ServisFirst Bank in Montgomery for a little more than a decade, but he’s been working in the industry for close to 50 years. It’s no stretch to say banking’s in his blood. He shared some thoughts on his company, banking overall and where he sees the city headed.
Are you from Montgomery? I’m from Selma, but I had family in Montgomery, so we visited a lot. Then I was here when I went to Huntingdon College. I moved here again in early 1996 to serve as president of First Alabama Bank.
How long have you been in banking? I started in banking in 1971 at First National Bank of Birmingham.
How long have you been with ServisFirst? I started in 2007 when its Montgomery location was founded.
How is ServisFirst different? While we are a fully chartered bank with the services of other banks, our focus is on businesses, so we are really a commercial bank. We appreciate every client and account we have, but what we specialize in day in and day out is commercial banking. And we have a great group of highly experienced commercial bankers here. I also think our service philosophy sets us apart. We say it all the time, but it’s true: “Service is part of our name, and our name is what we do.” Finally, we have grown and succeeded mostly on referrals. People who bank with us, like us and are quick to tell their friends and colleagues. Almost 80 percent of our accounts come from referrals. It’s interesting to note that we started the bank just prior to the financial crisis, and yet, we continued to grow during that time. That is partly due to the fact that we are very nimble. We can make decisions right here and in a timely fashion.
What changes and challenges have you seen during your decades in banking? Technology and computers have changed everything. All banking transactions are faster now. And laws and regulations have changed. When I started banking, we carried loan notes around on a small pad we could put in our pocket. They were not the novels that loan documents are now. You could do a loan over lunch. That has all evolved over many years, but after the 2008 crisis, I think we got a little over-regulated, and I believe everyone in the industry is looking for some regulatory relief. Here, our goal is to make banking as easy as possible for our clients, and too many regulations over your shoulder can make that difficult.
What do you love about your job? I like that this bank is an aggressive bank, in terms of our growth. I’m working with a group of people who are some of the best bankers I’ve ever worked with. They are so focused on customer needs, and we are all on that same page. I really enjoy working with my customers too, finding ways to assist them in every way we can with their financial needs.
What are your thoughts on the city’s current business climate? I think the business climate here is as good as I’ve seen it since I’ve been here. There are so many positives: our partnerships with the military, such an energized environment, and our Chamber does a fantastic job in comparison to other cities our size. Our customers are feeling good about the economy too, both nationally and locally. We see them expanding their businesses, buying new equipment and other things for first time since 2008.
What are your thoughts on the city’s future? It sounds like a broken record, I’m sure, but we do have to improve our city’s public education system. It is essential for business. But I see this core group of people in Montgomery, many younger people, who are really interested in and active in advancing the city in multiple ways, including the business climate. I would like to think because of that we will begin to see more businesses starting here and growing here.
What are your interests outside of work? I’m on the board of trustees at Huntingdon College. I’m passionate about that. The Family Sunshine Center and Child Protect are two local organizations that I support because the work they do is important. And I believe it’s part of the bank’s responsibility to give back too, so we do. I really enjoy hosting events for different groups here at the bank.