Denise Brown is a people-first banker.
As VP, retail business development officer and branch manager of the Murrells Inlet office, she prides herself on helping both customers and her team members take the next step in their careers and their finances.
Denise graduated from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green with a corporate communications degree and had no plans for a banking career until she moved to Nashville. She found work with a bank that hired based on a candidate’s soft skills rather than banking knowledge or experience.
“They hired people-people who were bright, energetic, and communicative,” Denise said. “Their philosophy was, if they hired people who can learn and engage with clients, they could teach banking. I carry that with me. I hire strong, independent employees who don’t need to be micromanaged. I want them to know that I trust them.”
Her approach seems to be working. The Murrells Inlet branch is the second-largest deposit branch, the fastest-growing loan branch, and the second-busiest branch in transactions. Team members at Murrells Inlet tend to get promoted, so Denise has to hire frequently.
“Coaching my team gets me to work every day. When I started, I had a strong mentor who used every experience to teach me, and it made a difference in my career,” Denise said. “I hope anyone who’s ever worked with me feels the same. People know when they come to my branch that they’ll be looked after.”
She makes sure her customers feel that way, too. Her branch staff lives in Murrells Inlet, and they get to know their customers’ names, birthdays, and even their pets. Most of the time, Denise’s branch is the familiar bank on the corner, but sometimes they’re a listening ear for their customers, if, for instance, a customer has a loved one in bad health and needs help with estate planning.
Even something as simple as a loan requires the bank to ask intimate questions about income and debt, and every customer wants to be heard. Denise believes that earning their trust is the most important thing, and the way to do that is through being polished, professional, and non-judgemental.
“People come in with big goals and big emergencies,” Denise said. “They come in with a need, and it’s my job to match them with a solution. Banking is a puzzle. It’s finding the right pieces to build your team and to help people take the next step with their finances.”
Denise has worked in retail banking since 1993, and she came to SAB in 2014. SAB’s community bank approach caters perfectly to Denise’s lead-from-the-front approach. She pointed out that Murrells Inlet is more of a small town than Charleston or Myrtle Beach, so referrals are a big piece of the branch’s success. Denise and her team take extra steps to generate word of mouth and make customers feel at home.
“We send out surveys and give out candy bars. We always ask a new customer what brought them in, and it’s usually their neighbors who are SAB customers,” she said. “It’s the old-school way, but it’s the best way.”
For Denise, the daily puzzle of banking fills her cup. On any given day, you can find her underwriting a loan, helping a client in the lobby or on the phone, or even directing traffic in the parking lot.
“Banking itself can be a routine, but when you personalize it on both sides, it’s more fun and we do a better job that way,” she said.