Growing up in Pikeville, Tennessee, Cara Roberson first learned about banking from her mom, who was a teller at First Bank of Rhea County in Dayton.
In January, after more than a decade in accounting and banking, Roberson became the first female president of the bank, which adopted The SimplyBank name at the same time the former First Bank of Tennessee acquired Community National Bank in Dayton.
"I've had a connection to this bank nearly my entire life, " Roberson says during an interview at SimplyBank's headquarters in downtown Dayton. "I'm proud of the historical success this bank has seen and of the prospect for even more growth."
Roberson worked at her family's apple orchard in Bledsoe County as a young teen but, like her Mom, she says she was always interested in math and money. She pursued an accounting degree, which she earned in 2010 from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. While studying accounting, she also worked as a teller at First Bank under Sam Swafford, the longtime bank president and former Dayton mayor.
Roberson used her UTC degree to become a certified public accountant at the Chattanooga accounting firm Hazlett Lewis & Bieter where she began her career as an auditor for a number of community banks. By 2012, she decided to leave HLM and join the bank where she and her mother previously worked in Dayton.
As SimplyBank's president, Roberson is one of only eight female leaders among the more than 130 Tennessee-chartered banks in the state. Roberson has combined both her math skills and her customer experience in helping to lead one of the fastest growing banks in East Tennessee, which expanded to Chattanooga last year and is preparing to open full-service offices in Cleveland and Knoxville on its way to eventually becoming a billion-dollar bank.
Roberson says she looks forward to coupling the organization's unique local ownership and identity with its innovative, self-starter management approach to doing business.
* Job: President of SimplyBank
* Education: A 2010 graduate in accounting from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
* Career: After working as a bank teller in college, Roberson joined the Chattanooga accounting firm of Hazlett Lewis & Bieter and earned her CPA. In 2012, she joined First Bank of Rhea County (renamed SimplyBank in 2019) as an auditor and was later promoted to chief financial officer and, in January, to president.
* Personal: She and her husband have two daughters and live in Pikeville.
"When George Calfee bought this bank in the 1980s, he introduced the differentiating qualities we live and lead by still today," she says.
Calfee, who started the Calfee's convenience store chain that became Favorite Markets, died in 1986 . The Calfee family has maintained ownership of the bank and Calfee's widow, Bernice Calfee Sale, serves as chairman of the bank board.
While most banks are pruning their branches, SimplyBank has expanded to 14 offices in Rhea, Meigs, Polk, Hamilton, Bradley, Knox and Roane counties in Tennessee and in Catoosa and Walker counties in Georgia.