Taking Charge

Ed Gentry | Triumph Bank | Memphis, Tenn.

Ed Gentry leads a commercial loan team to exceptional performance

By Carol Patton

William Chase Jr., president and CEO at Triumph Bank in Memphis, Tenn., recalls trying four times to hire Ed Gentry before the community bank first opened for business in 2006.

“We laugh about it now,” says Chase, explaining how the two men previously worked together at National Bank of Commerce, now SunTrust Bank. Back then, Chase was not only impressed by Gentry’s skills and acumen, but the two also shared a core lending philosophy—find a responsible way to say “yes” to clients in need of credit.

Chase calls Gentry a “classically trained commercial lender” who often uses his gentle sense of humor as a business tool to connect with potential clients. But not even Chase expected the level of extraordinary success Gentry would help generate after he came on board at Triumph Bank as executive vice president and chief lending officer in February 2008.

Back then, the bank’s asset size was about $125 million. Today, it’s $420 million, with loans representing 80 percent of the total.

Not many loan officers share Gentry’s background. Almost 25 years ago, he completed a 24-month training program that consisted of graduate-level courses in finance, banking, accounting and management. He says the program taught him about the business, credit and deposit needs of various industries as well as effective practices for underwriting and employee coaching, mentoring and training.

Gentry, 48, credits that soaring loan growth in part to his hands-on mentoring and coaching. Every Monday, he and the bank’s 11 small-business loan officers attend a sales meeting and report on the sales calls they made the previous week. Then they identify potential new loan opportunities and the steps they could take to convert client conversations into actual loans. By regularly sharing their activities, Triumph Bank’s loan officers learn about each other’s challenges and how to overcome difficulties or objections in landing productive, quality loans, Gentry says.

By Thursday, when Triumph Bank’s loan committee meets, the loans generated that week are ready to be reviewed and approved—often thanks to Gentry’s oversight of the whole process. “Then it’s rinse and repeat on every deal,” Gentry adds. (So far, Gentry’s most satisfying loan was a $5 million deal last year that helped a family-owned company extricate itself from a bad big-bank relationship.)

Gentry also accompanies lending officers on sales calls when deals become complex, and he frequently participates in mock sales calls to better prepare loan officers to handle client issues and mitigating factors. These mentoring practices, he says, have allowed the bank’s loan officers to grow individually and improve their performance by “leaps and bounds” over the years.

Asked about his hopes for the future, Gentry says he would like to see Triumph Bank grow even further, to the point where Chase could be given the opportunity to possibly split his job responsibilities and give Gentry an opportunity to grow his own leadership skills as bank president (while Chase remains CEO). Such growth, Gentry quickly adds, would also hopefully allow one of his current loan officer charges to take his current post as chief lending officer, and hopefully allow the bank’s other loan officers to grow and be promoted as well.

Carol Patton is a writer in Las Vegas.