Jean Hale, president of Pikeville-based Community Trust Bancorp, recently was named among the "25 Most Powerful Women in Banking."
The recognition by American Banker magazine placed Hale in the company of industry titans such as Irene Dorner, CEO of HSBC USA; and Beth Mooney, CEO of Key Corp.
In ranking Hale at No. 24, American Banker noted Community Trust's improvements in key areas such as its efficiency ratio, which essentially measures how productive a bank is in generating revenue. The magazine noted Community Trust (NASDAQ: CTBI), which has more than 70 locations in Kentucky, West Virginia and Tennessee, improved the ratio partly by renegotiating contracts with technology providers and controlling legal expenses.
In addition to her executive role, Hale, 65 and a native of Pike County, serves as chairwoman of the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, which approves state tax incentives.
She recently answered some questions from the Herald-Leader via email.
Question: American Banker noted a number of your accomplishments. What do you think is your greatest accomplishment and why?
Answer: My greatest accomplishment has been to participate in the growth of Community Trust Bancorp, Inc., to the largest bank holding company with its headquarters in Kentucky with assets of $3.6 billion while maintaining the company's community banking model focused on its shareholders, customers, employees and communities.
In today's world, being part of a company that operates with the core values of fairness, respect and integrity is very rewarding.
I have had the privilege of being part of Community Trust since its assets were only $18 million.
At that time, we had less than 25 employees and one office. We now have more than 1,000 employees and 81 branches throughout Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee."
Q: You've been with Community Trust more than 40 years. How have you seen the role of women in the industry evolve during that time?
A: The role of women in banking has continued to grow and expand during the past 40 years.
I believe that there is recognition within the industry of the significant leadership and contribution that women make in the workplace.
Additionally, women have continued to enhance their education and training and have recognized that they can make a difference within an organization and an industry.
I believe that the opportunities are there for women to continue to excel not just within the banking industry but in all professions."
Q: Two years ago, Community Trust announced the acquisition of First National Bank of LaFollette in Tennessee. How has that acquisition gone, and do you anticipate more such deals?
A: The acquisition of First National Bank of LaFollette in 2010 was our first acquisition in Tennessee.
The acquisition has been a great addition to our banking organization.
Our LaFollette market has made a positive contribution to the company's earnings from the time of acquisition.
We are disciplined in our acquisition program, looking at many facets in determining a good partner. In addition to their ability to make a financial contribution, they have great employees and a service-focused culture which made them very attractive to CTBI."
Q: American Banker noted your involvement with KEDFA. Beyond the tax incentives offered, please give your thoughts on what state government can do to further encourage companies to grow in Kentucky?
A: I have had the pleasure of serving on the board of the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority during the administrations of four governors.
I have two community service passions, and they are education and economic development.
Kentucky has been doing a very good job with assisting companies to locate within Kentucky and an outstanding job in having existing businesses expand their operations within Kentucky.
I think it says a lot for the business climate within Kentucky when growing businesses invest in their existing Kentucky operations.
The tax incentives offered to companies have a requirement that the companies must earn the incentives through the creation of jobs and generation of income to be taxed. If the companies do not meet the required criteria of the particular program in which they are participating, then they do not earn a tax incentive.
Kentucky's focus on improving educational attainment by the residents of the state is paramount to our ability to grow the state's economy with new and expanding businesses.
Economic development and education go hand-in-hand to grow the economy of the state.
"We must have an educated and trained work force to attract and retain business in Kentucky."