Brian Lamb jokes that he likes to wear his old green-and-gold University of South Florida basketball jersey underneath his business suit.
But he doesn't laugh about the lessons he brings from the court to his new role as Fifth Third Bank market president, where he will oversee 46 banking centers, 350 employees and $2.1 billion in deposits.
The bank elevated Lamb, 35, from his role as business banking executive last week. He says his days as a USF player helped his ascension.
"When we meet we have 'locker room discussions,' " Lamb said Monday. "They're candid and open, and we hold each other accountable. We inspect the commitments we've made to each other. But one thing's for certain: When we walk out of that 'locker room,' we're 100 percent on the same team."
Lamb, a 6-foot-3 point guard out of Tallahassee who played four seasons for USF (1994-98) and led the team in assists as a sophomore and junior, could have shied away from his athletic background out of fear of being labeled a "jock."
He chooses instead to leverage the experience. "There are a lot of behaviors I learned in athletics that translated into the business world," said Lamb, a member of USF's board of trustees. "It builds a culture of accountability, a culture of winning."
Fifth Third cites a number of successes since moving into the Tampa Bay market in 2005, including adding 29 new branches under Brian Keenan, the outgoing president who resigned in May. The Times named it one of the area's top workplaces for 2011.
Lamb has been on board for much of Fifth Third's growth. After earning an accounting degree from USF, he started his career with TECO Energy and eventually became the director of financial services. After a stint as the chief financial officer of Home Discovery Real Estate Services, he became the CFO at Fifth Third in December 2006.
But success involved more than education, experience and chance for Lamb.
He credits engaging the community, building relationships and receiving mentoring from many, including TECO chief executive John Ramil and Columbia Restaurants president Richard Gonzmart.
He says he stayed humble when seeking advice and maintained respect for the community.
Most of all, Lamb made sure to be prepared when opportunity came his way. Two years ago, he told me market president was a goal. It came sooner than I imagined, but clearly he worked to be ready. He looks to continue building the bank's brand and growth while emphasizing its strength. Bloomberg recently ranked it seventh among the world's strongest banks.
Lamb notes the bank's local leadership and touts its philanthropic efforts, including $500,000 in donations to nonprofits. He's also pleased with a fairly new location in east Tampa and plans for a new branch on Fowler Avenue.
I can't help but marvel at Lamb's progress. As a sports writer, I covered some of his games in '97, and he always gave insightful comments, even after tough losses.
He was my go-to guy.
Now he plans on being a go-to guy for the community. I'm glad Fifth Third put him in the game.
That's all I'm saying.