If Hollywood ever makes a buddy banker (rather than buddy cop) movie, Dan Mahurin and Allen Brinkman would be naturals for the leading roles.
After 12 years running SunTrust Bank in Tampa Bay, Mahurin is stepping into bigger shoes in his role as president and CEO overseeing three SunTrust banks in Florida.
Mahurin, 61, helped select Brinkman, 42, to replace him in Tampa because the two are on the same wavelength when it comes to customer and community service. So much so that in a recent sit-down with the two bankers on the 20th floor of the SunTrust Financial Centre in downtown Tampa, they both admitted it felt like they'd been working together for years, not four weeks.
They're both big on cultivating a depth of customer loyalty that SunTrust historically is known for more than most other banks. They both walk the walk of getting involved in economic development and leadership positions within their community. They both acknowledge modest but distinct signs of an improving economy. And they both — yes, bankers can have hearty laughs — enjoy a good sense of humor.
Though Mahurin's new office is technically in Orlando, he will stay involved with the Tampa Bay Partnership and its One Bay Initiative, which is forging a broad-based vision of what the Tampa Bay region could become in the future. And Brinkman? He's living in an apartment with his wife and four young sons while looking for a house to buy.
SunTrust Bank, Tampa Bay, has about $7.5 billion in deposits, 115 locations, about 1,000 employees and a 13 percent market share over six area counties. Parent company SunTrust Banks Inc. is based in Atlanta with $175 billion in assets.
Here are some highlights of the interview with the two SunTrust executives.
Allen, how did you get into banking in the first place?
Brinkman: I blame my wife (we were high school sweethearts). After graduating from Columbus State University in Georgia, I was working for the Hilton Hotel chain in California learning about customer service. But she was back in Georgia, so I came back to Columbus and got a job in banking. Most of my banking career has been at fast-growing First Union, which became Wachovia, which in turn was bought by Wells Fargo.
Mahurin (to Brinkman): Didn't you tell him where you really started?
Brinkman: That's right! Twenty years or so ago I was a teller at Trust Co. of Georgia. (Reporter's note: Trust Co. of Georgia merged with SunBanks to form what is now SunTrust.)
So you've come full circle, back to the bank where it all began.
Brinkman: I have.
Mahurin: Interestingly, Allen started at Trust Co. as a teller. My third promotion at SunTrust was to a teller.
I tried working as a bank teller. It's not easy. So you must both have empathy for your bank's own tellers?
Mahurin: That is important. And they do respect the fact that the bosses have been there.
Brinkman: Tellers are often the only representatives of the bank that 85 percent of our customers see. They are key and they need to be good. It's a hard job.
So, Allen, you must have competed aggressively at Wachovia in Orlando against SunTrust, which has a big presence there?
Brinkman: I was intrigued when Dan asked me to come interview. I wanted to find out why it was so hard to dislodge customers of SunTrust. Why were they so loyal? I figured if I could not beat them, why not join them?
Allen, you mention your father was a lieutenant colonel in the Army and you were raised in a military family. Any early dreams of following your father's career?
Brinkman: In the early years I thought I would go into the military. I remember as a sophomore or junior in high school, asking my dad what I should do to prepare for the military. He said I had a more creative personality and thought the military might box me in. That advice was kind of a turning point in my life.
Granted you're only coming over here from Orlando, but what is your take on Tampa Bay so far?
Brinkman: This region is a great secret. One of the reasons I wanted to get involved on the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Council (he sits on the executive committee) is because this "product" needs to be advertised. I think, nationally, Tampa needs more press about what the region has to offer and for companies and more people to come here. This region has much to offer.