Andy Baker came to Cleveland, Tennessee, from his native Roscoe, Illinois, a decade ago to go to Lee University and he then expected to return to his Midwest home. But after working his way through school as a bank teller and earning his business degree at Lee, Baker went home to Illinois for only six months.
An offer at Southern Heritage Bank in Cleveland and the lure of East Tennessee brought Baker back to Cleveland in 2011 where he has quickly emerged as one of the city's top young bankers. In February, Baker was named the market president for BB&T, the third biggest bank in metropolitan Cleveland.
At 29 years old, Andy Baker is one of the youngest market presidents across BB&T's 15-state footprint. But he already has nearly a decade of diverse experience working in banking and getting training from his employers, the Tennessee Bankers Association and Lee University, where Baker is working on his MBA. Baker, who worked as a bank teller to pay his way through college, served as a development specialist, branch manager and loan officer over the past six years at Southern Heritage Bank, the second biggest bank in Cleveland.
"I felt a real calling to banking and I love it when we are able to help individuals and businesses achieve their financial dreams," Baker said.
In his new job, Baker oversees BB&T branches in Cleveland, Athens and Copperhill in Tennessee, as well as Murphy, North Carolina, and Blue Ridge, Georgia.
"I can't think of a more beautiful area of the country to work in," he says.
BB&T acquired the former First Citizens National Bank in Cleveland in 2006. The Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T has far fewer employees than did First Citizens as a stand-alone bank in Cleveland, and Baker spends his time both overseeeing the local staff and making loans and generating business in the community by himself.
"It's a great chance to directly serve our cusotmers and to help them with a vaiety of financial tools," Baker said.
On the weekends when Baker is activng as a banker, Baker is one of the musicians at the Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, where he plays guitar for a praise band.
Two years ago, Baker married his wife Kelsey, a Gainesville, Florida native who he met at Lee University.
"Cleveland is the perfect half way point for both of us, and it's great to live in a town where there are no income taxes, no toll roads and no freezing weather for six months a year," Baker says.