making a difference
Steady paycheck leads sam fant to Madison county bank president position
When Sam Fant got his first job in banking, like most recent college graduates, he was simply looking for a steady paycheck.
Fifteen years later, Fant is still in the banking business, and wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“Looking back now, it doesn’t seem like it took very long for that job to turn out to be a career, and not just a career, but something that’s always changing, is challenging in a good way, and something I greatly enjoy doing.”
Fant was recently named Madison County Market President of Citizens National Bank.
The promotion is one of a string of awards and honors picked up by the Rankin County resident, who also was recently named a Top 10 Under 40 by the Madison the City Chamber of Commerce. In 2011, he was named “Volunteer of the Year” for Madison city chamber. Fant also served as the Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership Leads Group president in 2011 and 2012.
Honors aside, Fant said the best part of his job is knowing he’s making a difference in the community, in large part, by helping secure financing for his clients as a commercial lender.
“Not to sound too cheesy, but when you drive down the street and see a building that’s completed or a new business that’s opened up or renovated, and you know you had a little part in it, it’s a good feeling,” he said. “That’s probably one of the most rewarding parts of the job.”
Fant is a 1999 graduate of Clinton High School and a 2003 graduate of Mississippi College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in computer information systems, with a minor in business.
He also attended Hinds Community College. Fant and his wife Somerlea have one son, Patrick, and two dogs, Rocky and Chief.
“I was attending a jobs fair on campus and wound up going to a lot of different booths, as many people do. At that time, the computer industry had gone down a bit and I saw a gentleman in front of me who looked to be 20 years my senior with a lot of experience, and I wound up at a booth for another bank in town,” Fant said. “they offered me a job and I accepted it.
“I started a week before I graduated. I kind of stumbled into it.”
Fant joined Citizens National in August 2008. He served as a “relationship banker,” or commercial lender and six years as manager of the bank’s Madison Banking Centre, before being named Madison County president.
“I still act as a commercial lender. I still manage the customer relationships I’ve formed over the last few years. Now, some of my focus has shifted to look at the Madison County market as a whole, which consists of two offices – one on Grandview Boulevard and one at the corner of Pear Orchard and Northpark Drive,” he said.
Madison County has two Citizens National branches, which employ 15 or so employees.
In his relatively brief career, Fant has seen the ups and downs of the banking industry, from the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009 to the county’s explosive commercial and residential growth during and after the economic recovery.
“Over the past several years, there has been a tremendous amount of activity,” he said. “We see a continuation of that growth and expansion today.”
In addition to weathering changes in the economy, Fant also has to stay up to date on changes in governmental policies and new technologies, both of which are transforming the banking business.
“If you had asked me when I was a kid in school if I wanted to be banker, I would have said that sounds boring,” he said. “Every day is different and it constantly changes. You can’t sit back and say, ‘I know what happened last year. If I follow that same game plan, next year will be great.’”
Fant said Citizens National works to stay up on new policies, offering regular training, and has a crack information technology team that stays up on all the current tech trends in banking.
“Pretty much anything a larger bank has, we have,” he said. “All the changes in the technology world, as far as apps and mobile banking and remote capture machines – all of that we have available.”
Remote capture allows patrons to take photos of their checks and deposit them without having to present the physical check at a bank branch.
“We make sure that we’re not going to be left behind and stay on the front-end of any emerging technologies,” he said.
Fant doesn’t expect the number of brick and mortar locations to grow, nor does he expect physical branches to disappear altogether.
“I know a lot of people who say, ‘I don’t have to go to the bank anymore,’” he said. “At the same time, especially on the commercial side, most of the customers we have prefer to have somebody they can call if they need something.
“They can’t imagine trying to do business with a company that doesn’t have one person they know and trust and can contact to get (things) done,” he said. “We see fewer people coming into banks, but that personal touch is still drastically needed.”
Citizens National has 26 bank branches in Mississippi, and $1.4 billion in bank assets.