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Staff File Photo by Tim Barber / Pinnacle Bank CEO Terry Turner, left, talks with Craig Holley.

Pinnacle Financial Partners is the youngest of Tennessee's biggest banks, but you wouldn't know it by talking with most of its bankers.

The Nashville-based bank was started in 2000 by veteran bankers and has grown over the past two decades by recruiting other experienced bankers. It's a similar approach that the founders of CapitalMark Bank in Chattanooga had employed since its start in 2007, and the two banks' shared philosophy ultimately led to a merger in 2015.

By hiring only bankers with at least 10 years of banking experience and giving them more local decision-making authority than most national or regional banks allow, Pinnacle has attracted both bankers and customers eager for individualized solutions and a comprehensive suite of options.

"When we organized CapitalMark Bank here in 2007, we were very deliberate about building a bank that would be a great place to work and a bank that is easy to do business with," says Craig Holley, a former AmSouth Bank president who helped organize CapitalMark and now heads the Chattanooga market for Pinnacle.

The strategy has helped Pinnacle quickly become the second-biggest bank headquartered in Tennessee, behind only the Memphis-based First Horizon Bank, even though Pinnacle has only a fraction of the branch locations of other banks in the state.

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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Pinnacle Bank Chattanooga President Kenny Dyer.
 

In Chattanooga, where 28 commercial banks compete for deposits and loans, Pinnacle is the fourth-biggest bank in the market with only two branches and continues to grow faster than the overall market. Pinnacle's reliance on its bankers and online options, rather than traditional brick-and-mortar branches, positioned the bank well to handle the forced shutdown of bank offices and in-person delivery options due to the coronavirus.

"It's a very different bank than the larger regional banks that do a very standardized, high volume business that is focused on the process," Holley says. "At Pinnacle, we try to stay focused on the customer and it's a more people-centric approach. That's what most bankers like and want to do, and it really comes back to that simple equation that engaged associates lead to engage clients and that enriches shareholders."

But the unprecedented shutdown of businesses caused by the coronavirus is creating a new world, even for veteran bankers.

"In previous recessions, companies saw their business go down over time, but this time we've had many businesses have to just shut down completely overnight," says Kenny Dyer, the president of Pinnacle Bank. "We're really in uncharted waters, but fortunately we have a great staff to be able to respond to this crisis."

Holley says the bank promotes a team-based approach as a bank where "we win as a team and lose as a team.

"All of our associates are owners in our company," he says. "We give them stock when they join the company and we provide stock awards annually and every single employee in the company participates in an annual cash incentive plan, which is unique in our industry."

Every new hire also spends the first three days on the job in orientation sessions led by company CEO Terry Turner, who helps define the mission of the bank.

"It helps all of our people to be engaged, and people then want to take those values and make sure we live that culture every day," says Ryan Murphy, a senior vice president at Pinnacle.

Pinnacle Financial Partners, parent company of Pinnacle Bank

* Established: Pinnacle began in 2000 and acquired CapitalMark Bank in Chattanooga, which started in 2007, in 2015

* Employees: Pinnacle has about 2,500 employees companywide and more than 100 associates in Chattanooga

* Why this is a Best Place to Work: Pinnacle makes sure associates know their work has purpose. Whether through helping clients meet financial goals, creating WOW moments or doing something heartfelt for Pinnacle’s “Make A Difference Day,” associates know what they are doing matters. The company also invests in a wellness program that encourages and rewards associates for making healthy choices. We encourage screenings/exams and offer classes/activities for nutrition, fitness, financial and mental health.

* Online: pnfp.com

 

The bank has a "culture club" of eight to 10 employees from all areas of the bank meet every month from different parts of the bank to help plan activities to make it a better bank and a better place to work.

"The associates really own and control the culture here," Holley says.

Dyer says Pinnacle also works to be as transparent with employees as possible, including employee dinners every three months when Turner outlines how the company is doing

"We work hard to make sure that we communicate with our employees everything that is going on in the company, and you just don't find that in most companies," Dyer says.
 

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