Twenty-five years ago Lisa White graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A. in journalism. Rather than take that degree into the profession of public relations, which was the original plan, she joined Columbus Bank and Trust [a unit of Synovus] as a management associate, "at the bottom of the totem pole," she says.
A quarter of a century later she has become a driving force in Synovus's growth, though she credits those communication skills learned in college for much of her success. "In the business world, if you can't communicate both verbally and in writing, then you can't be successful," White says. "Call it fate or whatever, but I was able to learn banking with a good fundamental base in communications from journalism."
Now the svp and senior director of the $34 billion-asset Columbus, GA-based company's Innovative Solutions division, White has made sure the bank is on the cutting edge of technology. The group's budget rose from $10.5 million in 2006 to $13.4 million this year. The catalyst for the group's spending was a partnership with NACHA to pilot its Secure Vault Payments. Synovus was the first bank in the country to team with NACHA to utilize the ACH product. Synovus was also one of the first banks to team with mobile-banking provider Firethorn Holdings, LLC, which was later purchased by Qualcomm.
"We were able to get in on the leading edge [of mobile banking] and for what I think was a minimal investment to be able to play in the space," she says. "We do believe that the cell phone will become more of a payment mechanism in the future and we felt like you've got to be on the playing field, you can't be observing from the sidelines."
Fee income, led by an eight-year-old partnership with prepaid card player Green Dot - a partnership that White helped bring about - has grown by 27 percent each of the last two years and is already up 17.3 percent through the first half of 2008. White says, like most any other bank, Synovus will look to increase its fee income and go back to basics to get through this tough stretch. It will be technology leading the way. "It's taken its toll on every one of us to be able to tighten up and figure out how we're going to align ourselves as we move forward," she says. "We've all got to figure out how to reinvent ourselves."
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