Keith Williams said it's important that the person leading Gulfport-based Hancock Bank is from South Mississippi and now he is Mississippi regional president after 29 years with the bank.
"In banking you have to understand your community," he said, and also understand the dynamics of the market and the state. He's done that as a banker and a volunteer with the local chambers of commerce, Gulfport Main Street, Gulfport Peewee Football League, Heartwalk and many other organizations and causes.
"Keith has proven his commitment to his Mississippi home, time and time again, through hands-on involvement in helping create opportunities for people and communities across the region," said John Hairston, president and CEO of Hancock Holding Company, the bank's parent company. "He exemplifies every day what it means to be a servant leader and brings to life the core values at the heart of our communities and our company's culture."
Each state in which Hancock Holding operates has a regional president.
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He will work with Brent Fairley, Hancock Bank's Mississippi Gulf Coast market president, and Greg Hodges, Hattiesburg market president, to grow business and bring in new customers by providing products and services that will make them reach their goals, he said.
Growing up in Gulfport he didn't dream of being a banker but said, "I grew up knowing that I wanted to stay in the state of Mississippi."
He started at Hancock Bank in January 1987 -- "The first and only job I ever had. That's unusual," he said.
His first job at the bank was working in the human resources department with an industrial psychologist rewriting the job titles and job descriptions for the whole company, which at that time was an $860 million bank.
"I got to talk to everyone in the bank about what they did and what their job was and how it related to other. That's a pretty good start," he said.
Now Hancock Bank is a $20 billion bank and after 116 years in the community, "People feel like they know us when they come into one of our branches," he said.
They also may know him from his many community activities. He is chairman of the Gulfport Planning Commission, where he's been on the board for 11 years, and on the board of directors for the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic golf tournament. These experiences give him first-hand knowledge of development and tourism that he said will serve him well as bank president.
"When you think about relationship of bank and community, they go hand in hand," he said. When a bank provides a person's first home loan or a company's first business loan, "You're helping the community grow."
Along with his duties as president he will continue to be active in the community, he said. "That's all part of it."
He emulates former Hancock Bank president and Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel and said, "Look at the things he was able to do."
While working his way up in the bank, Williams said he could walk in the corner office and have a conversation with the late Leo Seal, then bank president.
"I have benefitted tremendously from that," he said, and one of his biggest achievements at the bank is mentoring the people he's worked with.
"Yes, my door will be open," he said.