Listening and patience attributes for Larry Ratzlaff's successful career in banking and running
Many people say the lessons they learned playing sports translate well into their professional careers.
For Larry Ratzlaff, market president for Origin Bank Mississippi, the skills he developed as a banker likely help him as a runner.
The Madison resident took up the sport later in life, and much like in banking, Ratzlaff said running requires you to listen and have patience.
In running, that’s listening to your body - what it can and can’t do. While in banking, it’s listening to employees, clients and other stakeholders.
“If you do a half-marathon, you can’t start out running a 10-minute mile,” he said. “You have to pace yourself and be patient.”
Ratzlaff joined Origin in 2010. As market president, he oversees all five bank branches in Mississippi, as well as the mortgage center, also located in the state.
“Basically, my role is to promote the bank, support our employees in their efforts to earn business, and to take care of our customers and our communities,” he said. “One of our philosophies here is that we put an equal emphasis on our employees, our customers, our communities and our shareholders.
“Listening is a skill you continue to develop. That includes patience ... It requires understanding and respecting the individuals you work with.”
Ratzlaff was born in Alva, Okla., a small town near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line. He is one of two sons of Cliff and Marge, both of whom are retired.
He got his start in banking while he was enrolled at the University of Oklahoma.
“I was doing all sorts of jobs and a neighbor offered me a job as a teller,” he said. “I ended up working my way through college … at two different banks.
“That was my entree into the banking world.”
After earning his bachelor’s degree in business administration, Ratzlaff continued in the banking industry, initially serving the Oklahoma and Texas markets.
In the 1980s, Ratzlaff landed a job with Deposit Guaranty National Bank (now Regions), which brought him to Mississippi.
Turned out, the timing couldn’t have been better.
“It was a great opportunity. The whole economy in Texas and Oklahoma was devastated by the challenges in the energy sector,” he said. “It took Oklahoma almost 15 to 20 years to recover … it was a devastating time.”
Since his early days as a teller, Ratzlaff has experienced numerous ups and downs in banking, from the energy crisis affecting the southwest to the Great Recession that impacted the entire nation.
“It (the recession) put more stress on banks and the individuals who worked in banking,” he said. “The economy was in such bad shape and the industry was very scrutinized.
“It was a very frustrating time.”
One of the most discouraging aspects was changes in home mortgage lending.
“The whole industry took their eye off the ball in 2006 and 2007 and got caught in the construction boom. A lot of that led to the problems of 2008, 2009 and 2010,” he said.
Despite the hardships, he said the recession has made surviving banks stronger.
“Any business that goes through a downturn looks at themselves critically,” he said. “What was good, what the problems were, and what policies and procedures need to be put in place to avoid those problems like that going forward?
“The whole industry is better now than it was in those years.”
Ratzlaff has also seen changes driven by technology.
He remembers when the first automated teller machines were installed in Oklahoma City.
Now, he’s seeing as more changes come about as a result of smartphones and other new technology.
“Technology has become a driver of change,” he said. “Everything is so electronic these days. You can conduct business without calling someone or sitting down in front of them.”
He said it’s important for the bank to balance the needs of millennials, who prefer to do banking online, and baby boomers who want to be on a first-name basis with their tellers.
“We have to accommodate all of our customers,” he said. “That’s what we do.”
The longtime banker met his future wife, Lisa, while on vacation in Vicksburg. The two were married in 1986 and have two sons, Christopher and Bartlett, both of whom are in their 20s.
The couple lives in Madison and attends St. Richard Catholic Church.
During football season, he is the designated peacekeeper at home. Lisa went to Ole Miss, while their sons both attended Mississippi State.
Hobbies include playing golf, occasional hunting, riding bicycles and running half-marathons with his wife.
“We have gone all over the country doing half-marathons: Savannah, Ga., Chicago, New Orleans, St. Louis … We did the Mercedes Half-Marathon in Birmingham,” he said.
The couple signed up to run the Mississippi Blues Marathon in 2018, but the race was canceled because of icy weather.
Ratzlaff does a mile in about 15 minutes. He’s not focused on winning, but rather finishing the race, something that requires patience and listening to what his body can and can’t do.
“Finishing is everything. I have friends who have children who run and they’re all about being number one or number two,” he said. “It takes a toll on the body.”