As part of our 75th Anniversary celebration, we sat down with some of our executives to get their thoughts about Bank Independent’s legacy of making a positive difference and what they are excited about for the next 75 years of our company’s future.
Q: Introduce yourself and what you do here at the Bank.
A: My name is Rick Wardlaw. I'm the CEO and CFO of Bank Independent. I serve and provide leadership to over 600 team members.
Q: How long have you been here at the bank and what was your first role?
A: I was brought to the bank about 23 years ago to be the Chief Financial Officer.
Q: What is your favorite thing about coming to work at Bank Independent each day?
A: Our mission is to make a positive difference in people's lives. One of my favorite things is to watch our team members learn and grow into that mission and to see the difference that they make for each other, see the positive impact they make on their own families, to see them make a positive impact for their customers in their communities, and to watch them fulfill the mission of making a positive difference.
Q: Who are some of the mentors and memories that you have here at the Bank?
A: I like to say those who drink the water should remember those who dug the well and we've had a lot of well diggers over my career in the last 23 years. One of them being Mr. Ed Mauldin. Early in my career, we would go to lunch together about once a month, and I just learned so much from him. He poured into me his knowledge about banking. I was new to banking when they brought me on, and I'm still learning from him because he also poured into his three sons who are providing leadership to the bank. I also remember the ladies whom I call my two bank moms. Barbara Riant was a long-time executive assistant, and Pat Burney, the H.R. director who hired me. They not only taught me what to do but also how to do it. There is also Dr. Roy Stevens, a longtime board member who is a true American hero. He is probably one of the smartest men I know, and he served on our board for a long time. Joe Cobb, who was on our board recently passed away. We were having lunch at the board meeting, and he was asking me about my baseball league. It was a 40-and-over baseball league, and he was asking me where we played and what time the games were. Later that week, I had a game. I was pitching, so I was on the mound taking my warmup tosses, and he was up in the stands. Who does that to that level of support? He modeled that, and we see that in our team members and how they support each other.
Just thinking about our team members, the memories I have of the challenges that we've had, whether it was the 07-08 financial crisis, whether it was the devastating tornadoes that went through our community, or whether it was the acquisitions we did, one of which doubled the size of our bank basically overnight. The challenges that COVID has presented to us and each and every case of the challenges our team members came through and we came through as a bank, a stronger bank, because of it.
Q: What excites you the most about the future of Bank Independent?
A: What most excites me about Bank Independent is the fact that we are committed to remaining independent. We are committed to remaining a closely-held community bank. We've been that way for 75 years, and we are making investments to continue to be that way for the next 75 years. And what's exciting is that we have a talented team of leaders who are humble, hungry, and smart and who are going to carry that mission into the next 75 years. We're a purpose-driven organization. I'm proud of who we are. I'm proud that we have a reputation of being the bank of choice in our communities and the employer of choice in our communities. We have built and developed a culture here where we have a reputation for our team members coming to work and they don't come to work saying, “I have to come to work, they say, I get to go to work.” So I'm proud of that. We're a family, and I love my Bank Independent family.