Air Force General Moves from Tarmac to Bank Boardroom

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Joe Evans can breathe easier.

Normally, it could only be bad news if a military general or a federal regulator buttonholed you in a conference room. But for Evans, the chairman and chief executive of State Bank Financial (STBZ) in Atlanta, that's a board meeting.

State Bank recently added Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, an Air Force retiree, to its board as part of an expansion of its independent director slots. Evans offered a nervous chuckle after mentioning that Archie Bransford — a consultant and former deputy comptroller for the Southern district of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency — helped recruit McMahon to the board.

"I remarked to Bob and Archie that at different times of my life, either being called to sit in front of a deputy comptroller or being called to sit in front of a general would not be a good day," he said. "I am glad they are on my side."

State Bank announced the elections of McMahon and John D. Houser, the CEO of Southern Trust Insurance, this week as it expands to 11 members. Both are from central Georgia, where State Bank's main banking unit is based and an important part of the company's roots.

McMahon retired Sept. 1 as commander of the air logistics center of Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Ga. The base is the largest employer in that part of the state, and McMahon is tied in to economic development efforts in the area as president and CEO of the 21st Century Partnership in Warner Robins.

Several banking companies have added ex-military officers to their boards or promoted them to executive positions recently. It makes sense because there are a lot of parallels between a publicly held bank and a large military operation, Evans said. Someone like McMahon has experience running a complex, heavily regulated organization that demands accountability and quick thinking.

"Bob really checked all the boxes," he said. "Former military people are attractive to banks … [and] they are also attractive to lots of businesses that need those skill sets."

State Bank, which has $2.7 billion of assets, has grown rapidly. Since 2009, State Bank has bought 12 failed banks.

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