Caryn Hughes has a positive outlook on her career, her company, and the capital city. The Senior Vice President; Alabama Commercial Lending Executive of Valley Bank shared her thoughts on banking, the impact she believes her work has, the local business climate and her sunny forecast for Montgomery.
Where are you originally from? I was born and raised in Huntsville and moved to Montgomery in 1996. I’ve lived here so long now, I feel like a native.
When did you start with Valley Bank? I started with Aliant Bank in 2009, and then through acquisitions, that became Valley Bank. So, I’ve been with this bank for almost 13 years.
What first got you interested in banking? During summers in college, I worked for a bank in Huntsville, in the credit department. I was majoring in finance, and I went straight into banking. At that time, I actually thought I wanted to become an accountant, so I went back to school, got an accounting degree and my CPA. But, when I was done with all of that, my banking career was really taking off, and I was enjoying it, so I decided to stay on that path.
What are your primary duties? I am the Alabama Market Executive and more specifically, I manage the commercial lending for the bank. We have commercial lenders throughout our footprint in the state: Montgomery, Birmingham, Alex City and Auburn. We serve all sizes of business, including small business. We have a commercial real estate division too, and I work closely with them.
What’s on the horizon for the banking industry? Overall for banking, we are talking about technology all the time; it is changing so fast. We have to stay on top of it and offer all the products, services and conveniences our customers want and need to stay competitive. We want them to have the best possible digital experience, and that can be a challenge because with every advancement and move in technology comes the risk of fraud. Security issues for us, and for any bank, are a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week issue that never goes away. It is our duty to protect our clients from that danger. And of course, we’re always watching interest rates. As they move in any direction, they can push people to rethink projects.
What is the most rewarding part of your work? That’s easy: the community impact work we do. One of the main things I love about Valley Bank is the emphasis we put on being truly engaged in our communities. Our CEO stresses the importance of this, and he doesn’t want us just donating money. He wants us to give our time too, to volunteer. We are all encouraged to find our passion and to give back to that, to get involved.
What is your impression of Montgomery’s current business climate? I feel very good about Montgomery’s business climate and our local business community. We have a really strong support system thanks to the Chamber. I think we can make it through whatever we face because we face it and work through it together.
Why are you and the bank so involved with and supportive of The Chamber? It goes back to what I was just talking about: the teamwork. I am on the Exec Committee for the Chamber, and that has been very rewarding because I have learned so much more about this city. It has really put a spotlight on the many ways the Chamber, the business community and the city work together toward common goals. I love seeing that, and I don’t think it is like this in many other places. I’m also so impressed with the Chamber staff. They work so hard across so many different areas. I tell our customers all the time that the Chamber is out there working for us, for them and for what is in the best interests of all our businesses.
What are your interests outside of work? I’m very passionate about the Montgomery Area Food Bank and the good work it does. I served on its board for a long time, and as a bank we remain very supportive of that organization. I love dogs. I have two standard poodles who are both big spoiled-rotten babies. I also love spending time with my grandkids; I have three right here in Montgomery. And I enjoy spending time at the beach. I’m an avid saltwater angler. I go fishing as often as possible. I once caught an award-winning trigger fish.
“I was recently honored by the Girl Scouts. I was given the organization’s Leading Lady Award. I am so behind the work they do, mentoring young girls into leadership, so that recognition meant a lot, probably more than any award I’ve ever received.”