Location: Tampa, Fla.
Assets: $955 million
Employees: 120
Chairman and CEO: Jerry Campbell

Maggie Cancelino has worked in the banking industry for three decades, but says her six years with HomeBanc in Tampa have been the best. "When I go to work in the morning, I have a smile on my face," says Cancelino, manager of a branch in coastal Belleair. "We're happy, contented bankers. We're professional, but we can still have fun."

There's a strong sense of team at HomeBanc, and it starts with Chairman and Chief Executive Jerry Campbell, who is a big believer in the power of recognition and openness to make employees feel engaged. "We think the environment people work in — the relationships, the communication — is really important," he says.

Campbell holds a monthly meeting with all employees — those at HomeBanc's 14 branches attend by phone — where he gives an update on the company financials, candidly answers questions, and then spends 20 minutes or so lauding "heroes" who have gone above and beyond in some way. It might be the lending officer who brought in new business or the branch manager who did something extra to help a customer.

Those people are seen as role models within the eight-year-old company. "It creates a fire and motivation to get recognized next time," says Tony Apicella, director of retail banking.

Financial rewards reinforce the message. HomeBanc pays incentives for referring customers and employees — about 40% of the 100-person staff has been referred — as well as exceeding loan or deposit targets. "We have no cap on incentives, and a variety of ways to make money by helping the company grow," Campbell says. "We've had circumstances where our top loan officers have made more money than our top executives."

It also pays employees to volunteer, provides generous 401(k) matches that vest immediately and contributes healthy amounts each year to an employee stock ownership program. "People are building equity in the company very quickly," says Deb Hanses Novakoski, an executive vice president. "It really creates a sense that we're in this together."

The money is great, but Cancelino says it's the freedom to personalize how she does her job that makes HomeBanc special. She has taken to handing out pom-poms to customers to celebrate winning their business. "We have a very high energy level, and the customers can feel it," she says.

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