In the early 2000s, business owners could have been forgiven for despairing when a number of local banks were snapped up by larger corporations. But where some people saw defeat, Will Chase saw opportunity. Together with a group of like-minded professionals, he sought to create an institution with a focus firmly fixed on Memphis. After a decade and a half of growth, it’s safe to say Triumph Bank proved Chase’s instincts were right.
As president and CEO of Triumph since it opened its doors on June 5, 2006, Chase has overseen the accumulation of almost one billion dollars in assets. But that never would have been possible without careful planning. “There was a hole as a result of four institutions selling to out-of-town ownership,” says Chase. “There was capital available to invest by people who had also invested in community banks and understood what was going on. So, we thought there was an opportunity for a local bank that had local owners, with the primary director base comprising people who owned their own businesses.”
The collective needed someone to run the operation, however, and Chase’s extensive banking background made him right for the job. “I went to high school in Memphis and after I graduated from Vanderbilt, I went into banking in 1978. I started out repossessing loans, but I think since then, I’ve probably done almost every job there is in banking.” With experience in business loans, asset based lending, commodity lending, and loans to cotton merchants, he knew the Bluff City’s market as well as anyone.
Since it started primarily as a business bank in 2006, Triumph has grown its service base as well as its physical footprint. There are five primary locations in Memphis, Arlington, Germantown, Collierville, and Brentwood, and loan production offices in Memphis and Nashville. However, Triumph’s online client gives it a much wider reach, currently offering mortgages in 39 states.
“We really have a broad scope,” says Chase. “We have a local business, we do business with other banks where we help them and their customers where they may not have the experience to get a home loan, and we have our internet channel, which we refer to as consumer direct. For a bank our size, quite frankly, it is pretty revolutionary for us to be able to do all these different things at the same time. I’d say we have one of the highest percentages of business loans of any bank domiciled in Shelby County.”
Steady growth, however, means more staff and retaining customers. Chase has been careful to place the right people in the right divisions to ensure that none of the bank’s services are overlooked when expanding across Memphis and the Mid-South. But as the bank gains a bigger influence, Chase always remembers Triumph’s local foundation. “We do a really good job of knowing our customers, what they do, and how they make money. When you have that knowledge, from dealing with a customer directly everyday at the bank, it’s a competitive advantage.”
To keep those relationships alive, Chase makes himself available at all times, even on weekends. Many of his employees are also willing to offer that extra availability to their customers as well. Because of this close focus on homegrown connections, Chase says they don’t lose many customers. “We’re seeing something cool right now, too,” he says, “which is that many of our customers are doing generational transactions.”
Since Triumph is so ingrained within Memphis, Chase wanted his bank to bolster its community service offerings. “We’ve always been involved, but a few years ago we looked back and wanted to start doing things with more intentionality,” he says. “One of our employees came here from a very large bank with a foundation, and he asked, ‘Why don’t we have a foundation?’ It was a great question, so we pursued that line, and now we have a foundation that lets us work more easily with not-for-profit organizations that can make a real difference in the community.”
With strong relationships and assets piling up, it would be easy to take a foot off the gas. But Chase continues to look forward, always playing the long game when it comes to Triumph’s future. “We’re approaching a billion dollars, and that brings on quite a few extra regulatory requirements. We’ve been looking ahead to that, because we’ll get there sooner rather than later.”
When that day comes, Chase will be ready, just as he’s always been. For even when there have been economic bumps in the road, Triumph is set up to withstand the storm. “We do a lot of financial analysis and ask a ton of questions,” Chase says. “We’ve had a lot of growth in our balance sheets over the last couple of years, and with the way many of our revenue streams are situated, if one part of the economy goes south, another may be doing very well. But at the end of the day, I get to work with so many outstanding bankers here, and I’m grateful for their confidence in me.”