Growing up in East Brainerd and attending McCallie School, Michael Mathis developed a love for math, sports and other people.
The Chattanooga native initially studied math but switched to an accounting major at Furman University to allow him to pursue a banking career.
"Banking was a natural fit between the two things I love — relationships with people and working with numbers," Mathis said.
After joining the former Pioneer Bank as a management trainee straight out of college, Mathis became a branch manager when he was only 23 years old and quickly learned the value of listening and learning from other people.
That's a skill that has served the 51-year-old banker well throughout his career, both in business and in his volunteer community work, and helped Mathis be selected as the Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year for 2020. Mathis, a lifelong resident of Chattanooga who has headed Regions Bank operations in the Chattanooga area for the past 13 years, will be recognized with the annual honor on Sept. 17 as part of a virtual award ceremony in conjunction with the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.
"There were many outstanding nominations this year for his honor, but Michael was one who stood out based upon his involvement and leadership, both professionally and as a volunteer, in our community in so many ways," said Richard Johnson, a member of the selection committee for the Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year, which has been presented to top managers in Chattanooga since 1986.
Lesley Scearce, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Chattanooga, was among those who nominated Mathis for the award after he helped lead the most successful fundraising drive ever for the local United Way two years ago.
"Michael spent his time as chairman close up and personal with our neighbors who face the most vulnerable challenges, rather than staying in the comfort of an office at a distance," Scearce said. "He truly helped to transform the community because he was willing to be transformed himself."
As an adopted son, Mathis said he understands how fortunate he has been to have the support of his family and the chance for education and relationships that others may not have had.
To help raise more than $11.5 million in pledges and contributions to United Way in 2018, Mathis appointed community leader Alison Lebovitz as the campaign's "CEO," or "chief enthusiasm officer." Lebovitz said Mathis himself demonstrated "a level of integrity, empathy and kindness that inspires those around him to be as passionate, selfless and generous as he is."
Mathis is one of 83 market executives that head Regions Banks across the bank's 15-state region. He oversees 26 bank branches with about 250 employees in Southeast Tennessee, which collectively have more than $1.3 billion in deposits and ranks No. 3 among the 28 commercial banks operating in the Chattanooga market, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
About Michael G. Mathis
Job: Executive vice president and Chattanooga market president for Regions Bank
Award: Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year for 2020
Education: B.A. in accounting from Furman University and an M.B.A. in finance from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Career: He began his banking career at Pioneer Bank as a management trainee in 1991, where he served as branch manager, commercial banker and commercial market manager. After working to help establish FSG Bank, he joined Regions Bank in 2003 as commercial banking market manager and was promoted to market president in 2007.
Community leadership: Mathis served as campaign chairman for the United Way of Greater Chattanooga in 2018 and chairman of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and Chamber Foundation in 2014. He also currently or has previously served on the boards of Siskin Rehabilitation Hospital, Brainerd Baptist School, UTC Chancellor’s Roundtable, UTC Finance Advisory Board, Chattanooga Area Swim League and the McCallie School Alumni Council.
Personal: A Chattanooga native, Mathis and his wife, Paige,have to two children, McCay and Jackson.
As a former baseball and football player at McCallie, Mathis says he is competitive and looks for others who are eager to succeed and grow the bank. But he says he tries to remain focused on serving the customer and listening and working with others from all types of backgrounds and experiences to help them succeed.
"We want people with a passion for service and as a manager, one of the best things I believe I can do is to help develop those people with the right skills and characteristics to grow and be successul by providing clear, candid communication and set high expectations," Mathis said.
Brett Shaffer, senior vice president and head of community relations for Regions Bank, said Mathis "listens to what's important to his team and makes sure they are at the table when decisions are made." In response to recent concerns over racial injustices, Mathis initiated a series of conversations so bank employees could be heard.
"It's obviously been a challenge this year with the coronavirus, but we've worked hard to make sure we communicate as a staff and communicate and help our customers through all of this," he said. "We literally worked seven days a week to help businesses apply for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and to meet their needs during some challenging times. But that's what we're here for. And it's rewarding when we can help people or businesses navigate difficult times successfully.
Although he has had offers to relocate to other markets, Mathis has remained in Chattanooga throughout his career.
"This is home and the community that I love," he said.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 423-757-6340.