December 8, 2021
Bankers to know in Florida

Photo: Mark Wemple

Marty Lanahan is executive vice president and West Florida area president for Regions Bank.

The Money Issue

Bankers to know in Florida

Seven Florida bankers who are making their mark across the state.

Mike Vogel | 9/26/2014


Marty Lanahan
Executive vice president and West Florida area president
Regions Bank, Tampa

Count Marty Lanahan among the believers in Gallup's StrengthFinders bestseller and online assessment. It doesn't take long for Lanahan, Regions Bank's president for its West Florida area, to bring it up in conversation. The StrengthFinders' assessment ranked her top strengths as strategic thinking, individualization and communication.

She needed those strengths and a few others when Regions Bank in 2012 put her in charge of its 120-branch, 800-employee West Florida region, which runs from Lakeland to Naples. The workforce seemed stuck in a recession-induced funk. "We did not have the greatest morale," Lanahan says. She turned over the management team and also turned over some 40% of the branch staff. She focused on leading and communicating and hiring the right people to go forward. She brought in leadership coaches, held sales rallies and took other steps to build an engaged workforce.

She also cut back from her normal load of civic duty to focus on the bank. In Jacksonville, from which she had come, she not only had been Regions' president but also, among other work, had chaired the municipal electric utility, the JEA, and the volunteer committee for the Super Bowl. With the Tampa-based area now improved, she has been getting more involved in the region with Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa Bay Partnership and the Hillsborough County Economic Development Council.

In-house, the emphasis at Regions is on a "360" program to boost organic growth by offering all the bank's services to customers who might now have more limited contact with the bank.

Lanahan, 50, is excited about spreading the StrengthFinders approach. She recently got permission to bring it to all 800 employees in her area.

On the Economy and Entertaining

  • Quote: “I love leading people.”
  • Alma mater: University of South Carolina finance major.
  • Family: Two children in their 20s, one in Jacksonville, one in Nashville.
  • Traveler: Heading to Northern Italy and of late went to Paris.
  • Entertaining: “Fun for me is planning a dinner party. I read cookbooks as if they’re works of fiction.”
  • Economy: “It’s picking up.” “We are seeing a great deal of home building.” Businesses are beginning to expand.


Larisa Perry
Regional president, central Florida
Wells Fargo, Orlando

Hurricane Ivan hit the Panhandle beaches in 2004 while Larisa Perry was an executive with SouthTrust Bank, a bank that Wachovia had bought only three months earlier. The day after landfall she hit the roads to inspect her territory's 22 branches, returning home at 9 that night to find a message about a meeting the next morning. At the meeting, she was told her job was being eliminated and was handed a severance package and a list of openings for which she could apply.

It worked out. She got an even bigger area to run - 45 branches - and stayed on. But it comes as no surprise that when Wells Fargo bought Wachovia in 2008, she thought, "Here we go again." This time, however, rather than the cold shock of a severance package, she got a call from Wells' Florida then-president, Shelley Freeman, who assured her there would be a place for her at Wells.

That sold Perry on Wells, and she points to it as the key factor that enabled her to persuade 2,000 people under her to buy into the new culture and to help pull off the transition in Florida from Wachovia to Wells, the largest merger in the banking industry.

Born in the Florida hospital where her dad worked as a medical technician, she grew up just across the state line in Alabama. "I could literally throw a rock from my front yard into Florida." Her father's ambitions for her to be a nurse anesthetist didn't survive her encounter with chemistry, and she finished with a degree in human resource management.

Since 2010, Perry, 50, has headed Wells' central Florida region, the largest region in the portion of Wells outside of Texas that once was Wachovia territory. It includes 196 branches and 2,500 employees, stretching from half of Pasco County across central Florida down to Palm Beach County. ("I haven't tried to convince Palm Beach they're part of central Florida," she jokes.) She's proud to say her region had the highest improvement rate in Florida in an in-house annual survey of employee engagement. An engaged team makes for good customer service, she says.

On Retirement

  • Second home location: Destin. “I hope to retire some day in Destin. That would be the plan.”
  • Mother of three: Ranging in age from high school to FSU graduate.


Randy Burden
Executive chairman

John O. Burden
President, CEO
Old Florida Bank., Orlando

With last year's $45-million acquisition of New Traditions Bank, father and son bankers Randy Burden and John O. Burden Sr. Met their goal of building Old Florida Bank into a locally based bank with more than $1 billion in deposits - $1.2 billion, to be exact - the largest locally owned bank in Orlando.

The Burdens led a group that acquired Orlando National Bank in 2009 and recapitalized it as Old Florida. Banks faced a difficult environment at the time, but John Burden says his group saw an opportunity. An Atlanta native, Randy Burden, 64, started his banking career there but has been in Orlando since 1976 working, leading, founding and acquiring banks that were eventually acquired by other institutions. His track record includes First National Bank of Winter Park, American Pioneer Bank, Orange Bank, Citrus Bank, Admiralty Bank and United Heritage Bank. Meanwhile, John Burden, 38, grew up in the banking business when not playing football locally and for Northwestern University and briefy for the NFL Carolina Panthers.

While advancing the conventional community bank business, they've also invested in alternative revenue generators as the banking industry struggles with declining interest margins. In 2010, they acquired, for an undisclosed sum, Mercantile Capital, a company founded in Orlando in 2002 that specializes in SBA 504 lending, SBA-backed longterm, below-market, fixed-rate loans for owner-occupied commercial properties and fixed-asset equipment. Through the first half of the year, Mercantile closed 18 loans in nine states totaling $80.1 million in total project costs. One of the top five loans was for a recycling plant in Cocoa. Over its life, Mercantile has closed loans worth $1.5 billion in project costs in 39 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. Mercantile represented "a good strategic ft," John Burden says.

On Positioning

  • “We’re right where we’d like to be right now,” says John Burden.

Jorge Gonzalez
President, CEO
City National Bank, Miami

By the time you read this, the Federal Reserve perhaps will have given the third-largest bank in Chile, Banco de Credito e Inversiones, permission to go through with its $882-million acquisition of Miami's City National Bank.

City National isn't being rescued. In the first half of the year, profit climbed to $23.4 million from $19.4 million a year earlier. Loans increased 22% to $3.2 billion in the past 12 months. "We keep having a best quarter after best quarter," says CEO Jorge Gonzalez.

That success owes to Gonzalez and his ability to keep the bank's 450 employees focused on banking rather than on the two-year process of selling the bank. Gonzalez joined City National in 2009 as president in a time of transition for the bank and the industry. The year before, the bank's founding Abess family, who had led the bank for 60 years, sold to Spain's Caja Madrid. The family had built a culture of success and taking care of employees. Indeed, bank head Leonard Abess won national attention for giving $60 million of his gain on the sale to current and former employees as a thank you.

Abess, under the new owner, was still in charge and hired Gonzalez. Gonzalez is a home-grown talent, a native south Floridian who was graduated from Archbishop Curley High School, attended Miami Dade College and was graduated from Florida International University. He spent 20 years with Wachovia and has a pristine reputation as a banker and in the community.

He arrived to find a bank situated better than most to navigate the recession. "While most banks went through a category 5 hurricane, we went through a category 3. Prior ownership had really been selective in its clientele," he says.

Gonzalez had room to maneuver that his peers lacked as they dealt with regulatory capital and problem loan issues. He diversified the bank away from being a typical Florida community bank dominated by commercial real estate lending. Commercial real estate lending now accounts for 35% of the bank's loan portfolio, down from a historic 75%.

The bank rebounded with the market and, at $5.1 billion in assets, is the fifth-largest Florida-based bank, with a five-star rating from Bauer. Its Spanish parent, however, struggled, had to be bailed out by Spain and in 2012 said it had to divest itself of foreign assets such as City National. BCI cut a deal to acquire City National a few months later in 2013.

As the deal has been pending, Gonzalez hasn't been on hold. Late last year, after years of doing SBA commercial mortgages, City National moved into doing other SBA lending. Gonzalez, 49, also looks to do more trade business and wealth management in the long term.

More immediately, he wants to build market share in south Florida, the state's most lucrative market. The bank has 26 branches from Miami to Orlando. A particular expansion focus will be Broward, for which the bank recently hired a team of veteran bankers. Just gaining 2% to 3% market share, Gonzalez says, will double the bank.

On Family and Banking

  • Home: Coconut Grove
  • How he met his wife: A blind date set up by his best friend’s sister.
  • Kids: Twins, a boy and a girl, 9
  • How to succeed in banking: “99% people and 1% something I haven’t figured out.”
  • Build for the long term: “Unfortunately in our business there’s not much in the way of immediate gratification.

Karen Dee
President, Florida and Mid-South regions
Fifth Third, Orlando

Karen Dee jumped to Cincinnati, Ohio-based Fifth Third Bank in 2006 from Wachovia and became head of retail banking for the entire bank in 2007. Two years later, she became president of Fifth Third's central Florida affliate. By 2011, she became regional president for the state and in 2012, while continuing as regional president for Florida, Dee became regional president for the Mid-South, covering Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. She has charge of 354 branches and 3,227 employees.

A New York native whose father was relocated by tech firm Harris to Florida when she was 14, Dee played basketball for Stetson, where she was team captain and an Academic All-American. Her father encouraged her to get a business degree, and Southeast Bank offered her a management trainee slot. "Did I grow up saying I want to be a banker? No," she says, but "I just loved it, and the primary reason is being a banker puts you in the position to really help people."

She likes Fifth Third's model of empowering local geographic units to make decisions. One of those decisions was hers:

To partner since 2011 with the city of Orlando to offer a 10-week summer camp for homeless youth where kids receive two meals a day, weekend food packs, school supplies and where their parents receive financial counseling. The bank and employees contributed $110,000 in 2013 to support the Summer of Dreams.

Fifth Third has 1,386 employees at its 168 Florida branches. "It's very much a growth strategy for us in Florida," says Dee, 53. It recently signed a deal with privately held, Atlanta-based RaceTrac to install 157 ATMs at its convenience stores in Florida. "That allows us to double our distribution in Florida," she says.

On Women in Banking and Off Time

  • Marriage prep: Dee and her husband, business owner Tom Dee, owner of Onsite Photo Scan, through their church, St. Margaret Mary in Winter Park, meet with couples planning to get married for a couple-to-couple marriage preparation program. “It helps us keep our 31-year marriage renewed.”
  • Empty nesters: Two grown daughters and one grandson.
  • Women in banking: Early on, “it was really more competitive. Now it’s more collaborative. What I see today is women helping women. There’s a lot of mentoring going on.”
  • Recreation: Boating
  • Personal goal: “Be a good grandmother.”

Margaret Callihan
South Florida division president
SunTrust, Fort Lauderdale

Margaret Callihan spent 23 years in Nashville, Tenn., for SunTrust, four in Chattanooga and eight in southwest Florida. In 2013, she became head of SunTrust's south Florida region, six counties, 150 branches and 1,375 employees. "I'm just getting warmed up," says Callihan, 59. "I'm a boomer.

We don't retire." Callihan says the most recent significant shift at SunTrust has been the 2012 transition from a mission-based company to a purpose-driven company. That purpose: Lighting the way to financial well-being. With it comes a focus on financial literacy for the public. "The connection of financial well being with mental, physical and spiritual well being is so strong," she says.

Raised in Texas by parents from middle Tennessee, Callihan went back to the family's roots when she attended Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her father moved the family there at the same time as he went to Vanderbilt to start a medical department. It makes for a family joke about the two going off to college together. After graduation, she worked for the Country Music Foundation, which runs the Country Music Hall of Fame. When she started to think of a long-term career in business, her father offered that the way to go was a management trainee program, and banks had the best. "He was one of the great dads who told me I could do anything I wanted if I worked hard," Callihan says.

On Kids and the Economy

  • Economy: “Our clients are telling us they feel more confident than they have in years."
  • In the family: Two of Callihan’s three children went to Vanderbilt. The third was accepted but went to Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C.
  • South Florida market: “The great thing about competition, it means you’re in a great market. We will always see a lot of competition in south Florida.”

Tags: Banking & Finance, The Money Issue


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