When Dan Rollins started work Wednesday as the chief executive of BancorpSouth (BXS) in Tupelo, Miss., he had already received a lot of unsolicited advice.

Topping some outsiders' priority lists is expense reduction; BancorpSouth's efficiency ratio stood at nearly 75% at June 30. Rollins' track record of cutting costs is likely one of the reasons he was chosen to succeed Aubrey Patterson, Stephens Inc. analyst Matt Olney told American Banker this week.

Rollins' previous employer, Houston-based Prosperity Bancshares, managed expenses with an iron fist, says Rod Taylor, a headhunter (and a Mississippi native) who specializes in the banking industry. Rollins is expected to instill a similar focus at BancorpSouth, Taylor says.

"He'll know how to reduce costs without cutting into muscle," Taylor says.

Not so fast. Asked which areas will receive his immediate attention, Rollins, 53, said he's approaching the job with an open mind.

"My job is to come in there and learn about BancorpSouth," Rollins said in an interview. "There is more than one way to skin a cat, and to come in with preconceived ideas doesn't sound like the right thing to me."

Rollins says he is eagerly anticipating his new job.

"Most people coming out of college think they want to be leader, and I've wanted to be a leader for a long time," he says.

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