In April, Will Thompson, 42, followed in Wade Burford’s footsteps as the Market President of Synovus East Alabama. After three months on the job, Thompson said it’s still weird walking into the extra large office with mini kitchen and on-suite.
“It is still very weird coming into this office and having all the windows, the couch, the bathroom. It’s a little surreal. But I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty cool,” Thompson said. “It comes with a huge responsibility.”
While the office is a nice upgrade, the job has largely been the same for Thompson, but that’s only because Burford, a mentor to the new president, allowed Thompson to make decisions leading up to his retirement.
“Wade, in my opinion, did excellent job of preparing me for this. Six months leading up to it, Wade was giving me tasks and letting me make decisions. He prepared me very well, and it’s really not been that big of a change yet.”
Thompson’s largest change was transitioning from managing around five people to managing more than 20. He had leaders around him throughout his 20-plus year career that has helped him. He also believes in his God-given gift of leadership.
“I think people are natural born leaders. We are born with that gift from God. He also gave me gift of gab,” Thompson said. “I enjoy leading people and challenging them, growing people, giving them responsibility. I enjoy leading organizations in a positive direction. I get in there and get my hands dirty, too.”
Thompson has helped lead community organizations like the Child Advocacy Center and the East Alabama Chamber of Commerce. He serves as the Chairman of the Board for the latter.
Thompson started his banking career when he was in college. Before starting his senior year, he asked then president and Sunday School teacher Steve Melton for a job as a teller. Upon graduating Shorter University with a degree in economics and a minor in math, Thompson worked in the then-branded CB&T as an analyst for what is now known as the family asset management group. In that role, he crunched projections and cash flow models for the bank’s high net-worth families.
“It was a lot of fun. It was similar to being a bookkeeper for these customers,” he said. “It was a really neat introduction to banking.”
After that, Thompson switched to the credit part of the bank when he was 24 years old.
“That’s where I learned to be the banker I am today. I learned about credit, cash flow, bad credit. It was a very interesting time,” he said.
He also worked in the commercial real estate group as an underwriter and junior lender then finally a true commercial banker, as he described it.
“It was scary and fun at the same time. It was scary because it was my name on the paper at that point. It was my loan that I made,” he said. John Thayer was his very first client in that role.
In 2006, Thompson moved to CB&T of East Alabama.
“It was the best decision I ever made in my life. I grew up in a small town near Statesborough, Ga. I’m used to the feel of a small town. Columbus is a bigger city, and I liked the feel of what was over here in Phenix City. The rest is pretty much history.”
The bank re-branded to Synovus a few years ago, another move Thompson said was good for the bank brand.
As for advice for young people who are starting out, Thompson said it’s important to find what you’re passionate about and pursue that.
“If you’re not passionate about what you do every day, you’re gonna dread waking up every morning and coming to work,” he said.