Wow, What an Amazing Ride

By Brad McEwen

I was in a meeting the other day, talking with an acquaintance about some matter or other when I heard myself say something that was, quite frankly, fairly unimportant, but that nonetheless had me later pondering how quickly our lives can seem to slip by, while simultaneously taking turns we never would have imagined.

In truth, it wasn’t the actual statement I was making that ultimately had my mind drifting down the wormhole of time, but rather the qualifier that began it.

“Back when I was with the paper…”

Simple words to be sure, and certainly not profound on their face, but when I uttered them I distinctly remember feeling as though I was recalling some odd bit of history pulled from a dusty old tome on my bookshelf, and not actually referring to something that was a reality of my life less than two years ago.

Which, quite honestly, got me thinking about how much has happened in my life in the last few months and how incredible many of those events have been.

There’s an old cliché, which I facetiously use fairly regularly to lament how utterly chaotic life can be when you’re hauling three kids around to school, daycare, ballfields, and the like, but which truly does some up my feelings about the last few months of my life…

Time really does fly when you’re having fun.

In that regard, the passage of time has most assuredly been rapid in recent weeks, but in truth it’s been whipping by in a blur since I first said goodbye to newspapering and joined the incredible AB&T team.

To be sure a lot has happened since I came over to AB&T in the spring of 2017. And while some of it has been difficult, the lion’s share of those experiences have truly been some of the most incredible of my life.

While there have been countless personal milestones, like welcoming the newest member of the McEwen clan, baby Rhodes (who it already seems is less like a baby every day), what really jumps out at me as I reflect on the past couple of years, are the powerful things we’ve been able to accomplish during my time at AB&T.

Even when I think back to my first few months at the Bank—when we did things like redesign our website and launch the Beyond the Bank series that has become part of the fabric of this company and our community—it seems my time here has been marked by numerous exciting accomplishments.

I mean just take the last eight or nine months.

Sure there was some tough stuff, like enduring the destruction and aftermath of Hurricane Michael, and dealing with the kinds of personal losses that are inevitable as we continue to age, but truth be told, there have been some downright amazing things that have happened during that span as well.

While it might seem like years ago that I pulled into parking lot on Meredyth for my first day, it conversely seems like only yesterday that we closed the door on 2018 and kicked off what has proven to be an exciting, albeit lightning-paced, new year that has already been filled with numerous highlights.

In most years, I might wait until the halfway point to take a breath and reflect on what’s happened so far, but just a couple of months in and 2019 has been like no other year in recent memory—which is really saying something considering all the stuff that transpired in the months leading up.

I guess things really started picking up October 10, when Michael barreled into Dougherty County as a category 3 hurricane.

Needless to say, the immediate aftermath of that event was intense—friends, family and colleagues without power and water, widespread damage, client upheaval and, quite frankly, fear.

But true to the nature of the company I’m fortunate to be a part of, AB&T and its amazing team sprang into action, immediately turning our focus to the needs of our community.

In addition to sending countless volunteers out to help where needed, we were also able to spearhead an initiative dubbed Restore & Replenish to help raise funds to bring much-needed food supplies to the community—an act I believe speaks to the responsibility AB&T feels for the people of Albany (which is perhaps the chief reason I’m so proud to be here).

Since my first day on the job, I’ve been in awe of the focus this company and its associates place on being good corporate citizens—something greatly needed in our community—and our response to that disaster only furthered that feeling.

But as wild as the hurricane event was, things only accelerated from there.

After taking a few days off to enjoy our first Christmas with Rhodes, I was right back in the saddle the day after welcoming the start of another year.

Only during my brief vacation, it seems my “saddle” had been moved to a different horse.

Although I started my vacation on December 21 as AB&T’s Communications Manager—responsible for Beyond the Bank, website updates, social media management, public relations, community engagement, and several other marketing-type tasks—when I walked through the doors on January 2, I arrived as the bank’s new Vice President of Branch Banking and Brand Execution—which is essentially a fancy way of saying that in addition to the stuff I was already doing, I’m also now responsible for our branch sales program, retail associate coaching, training and professional development, and several other functions more directly related to actual banking.

And of course big changes like those bring with them a slew of ancillary activities related to that news. First there was scheduling a headshot to go on the bank website—an event that quite hilariously brought with it another discussion about whether or not it was time for a haircut—and then I had to scramble to procure a couple of new suits to replace the ancient ones in my closet that were completely out of style and terribly ill-fitting.

Then, of course, there was my having to communicate that big change to a group of people who left for their Christmas breaks as my coworkers and returned for the new year as my direct reports.

Thankfully that news seems to have been well-received and there appears to be some genuine excitement among the tellers, customer service reps and branch managers I’m delighted I’ll be working more closely with.

Now, those of you who are familiar with my history (and know that I once held a similar position elsewhere before bolting from the banking industry in disgust roughly seven years ago) might find it odd that I’d be willing to take on a similar task here—especially as the Beyond the Bank series continues to gain momentum.

And to be honest, it wasn’t the easiest decision for me to make.

But as I thought through the offer over the Christmas holiday, a few key factors kept bubbling to the surface of my mind.

First off, when I thought about what the actual job would be—working closely with great people to help coach, guide and nurture their future development as associates and professionals—it was unquestionably something that I knew I enjoyed doing. That part of the job has never been a problem for me and there are few things I enjoy as much as helping others.

I also thought about the importance of that role within the context of what it means for AB&T as an organization.

Just as Beyond the Bank has been critical to our mission of becoming the premier community bank in Albany, Ga., developing and empowering associates who truly understand the needs of our residents and businesses—and who are highly skilled at providing tailored solutions that make sense for the members of this community—is equally important.

To see that I could have a hand in helping someone grow as person and aid them in becoming the best community banker they can be, was something far too appealing, and I think critical, for me to pass up.

And naturally my thoughts also turned toward the future, which demanded to be considered when tackling a decision of this magnitude.

As I let my mind wander down the road a few years, what I saw was of a future where AB&T is not only the premier banking institution in this community—meeting the needs of its clients in a way others can only dream of—but also where AB&T is a voice of reason and a strong, community-focused servant leader.

Taken together, these visions of the future were also bolstered by the recognition that I, personally, truly do believe in the vision and mission of this institution and I believe wholeheartedly that we have a leadership team poised to guide this company toward that exciting future.

As I contemplated these facts, and considered how truly amazing it is that I am in a position to help shape that future (something I haven’t always felt in a professional setting), there was really no reason I could say no to the offer.

Unless of course the decision would have a negative impact on what we’ve created with Beyond the Bank.

Thankfully, that concern passed as quickly as it popped into my mind, because there’s no denying that Beyond the Bank has continued to be vital piece of our mission to be a leader in this community.

So much so, that I think it bears pointing out that while there has been a change in the frequency with which we release Beyond the Bank, that slight change has nothing to do with our commitment to the platform.

In fact, I’m pleased to point out that any changes that might be apparent in Beyond the Bank are, like everything else we do at AB&T, intentional. Since we first launched it with nothing more than the idea that we felt an obligation to connect with the community we serve, we have sought to evolve and improve Beyond the Bank, so that its impact can be greater.

Last fall we began shifting the focus away from strictly being a profile of a local hero—or a way for me to share my musings about life—to begin introducing our community to the AB&T family and to promote community events like Barney’s Run for Warriors, which raises money to pair veterans in need with trained service dogs.

We also used Beyond the Bank to help spread the word about Restore & Replenish and the need for all of us to help meet the needs of our friends and neighbors during a difficult and stressful time, and we’ve continued to see it blossom in the first quarter of 2019.

Perhaps the biggest achievement we’ve had with Beyond the Bank actually happened recently—after my recent promotion and not too long after we began producing video-form Beyond the Bank pieces created in concert with our partners at the Levee.

While we’ve only produced three such video pieces, I can already see that the additional medium has only bolstered Beyond the Bank’s reach and impact, something evidenced by the recent video we created to educate our community on the T-SPLOST referendum that was passed recently by Dougherty County voters.

And speaking of the T-SPLOST video…

I just can’t explain what an honor and a privilege it was for me to be involved in that project and how proud I am that its creation was something that was so important to AB&T.

From the day we began talking about Beyond the Bank, which was actually the day Luke called me over to talk about my coming to work at here, we envisioned the platform as something that could have a real benefit for the community. So to see it morph into a vehicle to help connect this community—both through the written word and visually—is simply awesome.

To see that the commitment this company has made to this community is real, and not just something that looks good on a corporate priority list, excites me, and it validates that the decision I made to become a part of this organization was unquestionably the right one.

And for local leaders like Sharon Subadan and Mike McCoy to sit down for an interview with Brad McEwen, like I’m some kind of a local Larry King, was surreal to say the least.

As someone who prefers to be behind the camera and using his words to put the focus on someone else, it’s been strange getting used to seeing myself on film, guiding a discussion that impacts so many.

But the cool thing is, even though I’m still working on being comfortable in that role, I’m committed to making it work, because I’m committed to what we’re trying to do.

I don’t know where Beyond the Bank will ultimately take us, or what the distant future of AB&T and this community looks like. But if recent history is any indication, that future will be something truly amazing.

And I’m truly blown away that I’m a part of an organization that is committed to a long-term vision that’s as much about a successful community as it is about a successful bank.

Connect with Brad – 229.405.7212 - brad.mcewen@abtgold.com - @BradGMcEwen 

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