Chattanooga banker Craig Holley named city's top manager of 2012

Chattanooga banker Craig Holley named city's top manager of 2012

April 29th, 2012 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Craig Holley is chairman, president and CEO of CapitalMark Bank & Trust.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Chattanooga banker Craig Holley likes to use a collaborative approach as a manager.

The CapitalMark Bank & Trust founder said he's one of a six-member management committee that runs the financial institution, and that has resulted in what he calls "a transferring of know-how."

"I am not sure we would be where we are today as an organization had only I been making the decisions at the top of the bank," said Holley, named the 2012 Chattanooga area manager of the year.

That proved especially valuable when Holley recently developed heart problems and had to have quadruple bypass surgery.

While he was convalescing at home, Holley's staff has continued to operate and grow one of Chattanooga's biggest independent banks.

"I consider success to be building a strong financial institution based on a great depth of leadership at all levels," he said in an email. "We have worked hard to build an institution that is not dependent on any one individual."

Under Holley's leadership, Chattanooga-based CapitalMark raised a record $35 million in private capital as a startup bank in 2007. Starting with 13 employees, the bank has grown to 82.

Holley said the bank has a successful Knoxville operation and plans to expand its Tennessee footprint to Cleveland and Oak Ridge in coming months.

"Our vision is to quickly become a billion-dollar bank by entering new markets and out-executing the competition day-in and day-out," said Holley, who serves as the bank's chairman, president and chief executive.

Despite the economy and regulatory headwinds, CapitalMark in 2011 posted record earnings of $3.1 million and grew its total assets to $662 million. In the first quarter of 2012, profits hit more than $1.5 million and assets grew to more than $700 million.

The bank's biggest challenge, he said, will be related to how it delivers its products and services to its clients and "not turning into the big banks we compete against."

Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive, said in a statement that Holley's role in organizing and launching CapitalMark speaks to his contributions to free enterprise and economic development.

Patsy Hazlewood, a founding director at the bank, termed Holley "a motivator and a leader who leads by example."


Holley had worked at AmSouth Bank for more than 25 years until his post was cut as regional vice president for its Southeast Tennessee/North Georgia area. He said he had no immediate plans to start a bank, even at first turning down individuals who had approached him to do so.

But, after several months of golf and leisure activities, Holley started approaching prospective organizers. He was joined by experienced bankers Jim Vavalides, Barry Rich, Ryan Murphy and Kenny Dyer, and the institution opened in 2007.

Holley said the bank has had its share of problems during the Great Recession and slow economy. But he said CapitalMark experienced those difficulties at a much more manageable level in comparison with others.

"We had the good fortune of great timing, and as we saw the economy beginning to weaken, we pulled back on much of the real estate lending that got so many in trouble," he said.

As the economy improves, Holley said it will be important for all banks to manage their exposure limits and avoid significant concentrations in any one lending area.

The Manager of the Year Award, which is in its 25th year in Chattanooga, is presented to a manager who has made contributions as a leader in local economic development, a role model for professional and ethical management, a free enterprise advocate and a contributor to community well-being through outside activities.