At a breakfast Thursday in Chattanooga, several employees listened to and asked questions of someone many corporate workers rarely even see, much less talk to — the chief executive officer.
Bryan Jordan, the affable incoming president and CEO of First Tennessee Bank parent company First Horizon National Corp., gave employees and board directors a bit of face time.
“I am relatively new to the company, so it’s a twofold opportunity,” Mr. Jordan, 46, said in an interview at First Tennessee’s downtown headquarters. “It’s a chance for me to get out and get to know our employees, get to know our customers in the various markets and get to see our communities in more depth. I learn a lot from it in that I get a lot of feedback.”
FIRST HORIZON’S NEW STRATEGY
* Focus on First Tennessee banking growth
* Leverage Tennessee banking franchise regionally
* Reduce mortgage exposure and eliminate non-bank real estate lending
* Improve efficiency and productivity
Source: First Horizon
Mr. Jordan, who officially becomes CEO on Sept. 1, was in Chattanooga as part of a statewide tour of the banking company’s branches and financial centers, and meant to emphasize the company’s change to a focus on Tennessee.
A strategic overview presented recently by the Memphis-based parent company plainly stated the company’s approach to the immediate future. The slide compared First Horizon’s old strategy, which included a national mortgage focus, to the new one, which places more importance on growing First Tennessee Bank.
Mr. Jordan previously served as the bank’s chief financial officer. Before that, he was chief financial officer for Regions Financial Corp., giving him the “complex, big bank experience.”
It’s that experience that banking analyst Kevin Reynolds said is what First Tennessee needs to recover from the losses stemming from its national mortgage business.
“In the past year, the bank has embarked on a path strategy that they should have been on before,” said Mr. Reynolds, who works with Janney Montgomery Scott in Memphis. “And that’s to get out of the businesses that you should have never gotten in, and that would be the national lending, the mortgage related stuff, construction stuff outside of Tennessee. They should have never done that.”
In July, the company posted an yearend net loss of $19.1 million, or 11 cents a share, compared with a net income of $22.1 million, or 17 cents, over the prior 12 months. The bank in June agreed to sell its mortgage business to MetLife Inc. in a deal that Mr. Jordan said will close this week.
As part of its efforts to focus on growing its regional presence, Mr. Jordan said First Tennessee plans to add eight branches within the year, the bulk of which will be in the Nashville area, where the bank has a smaller share of the market than it does in Chattanooga.
He said the bank’s approach in the Chattanooga area just over the Georgia state line will be opportunistic, though he recognized the importance of the market to this area. The focus, however, will remain on Tennessee.
Mr. Jordan also dismissed the suggestion the bank could be sold in the near future.
“It’s our intent to remain independent,” he said. “We think the steps that we’re taking to reposition our business and focus on the Tennessee market, our core banking business — First Tennessee and our capital markets business — positions us to be an even better bank.”