FirstBank is local; Steve Pettit’s in charge

Sandra ClarkOur Town Leaders

It is easy to claim local autonomy, but in the banking industry few can deliver.

That’s because lending rules are set elsewhere, in a corporate office, and local lenders become pencil-pushers, checking boxes to see if proposals meet corporate metrics.

Steve Pettit

Steve Pettit, Knoxville market president of FirstBank, puts it like this:

“It comes down to the banker’s ability to listen. … All banks can write real estate loans to build a strip mall. (FirstBank’s commercial lenders) want to meet the tenants of those buildings, to hear their plans and dreams, to be their banker.”

Pettit says this is a “special time” to be a bank in Knoxville, Tennessee. The community is growing; the economy robust. Knoxville is not hobbled by excessive crime or dilapidated buildings.

“We see business owners, often the more progressive ones, with sales of 5-to-20 million dollars. They may not have a CFO on staff but need the skills of one. And they definitely want to know their banker.”

Pettit gestures around the second floor of the FirstBank building in Bearden. Down the hall are the offices of Travis Edmondson, chief banking officer; Brent Ball, east regional president; and Nathan Hunter, regional credit officer and well-known Knoxville banker.

“Our decisions are made right here,” says Pettit. “We collaborate every day, and we make our own decisions. … quickly.

Who is Steve Pettit?

Steve was born in Canton, Ohio, and lives in Knoxville by choice. A high school athlete, he was a scholarship football player at Rice University in Houston (1976-78) until an injury ended his career. His mother’s brother was on the faculty at UT-Knoxville, and encouraged Steve to transfer. He did and calls his college years at UT-K “the best time of my life.”

Steve graduated from the Haslam College of Business in 1981. He later acquired an MBA in executive management from Ashland University. Meanwhile, he launched a successful career in banking, got married and started a family. But the tug of Knoxville was ever present. “I had inherited my uncle’s season football tickets,” he explains with a grin.

So, when their youngest child finished high school, Steve and wife Tracy moved to Knoxville in 2012. His professional résumé is here.

Short version: Pettit started and sold his own bank, then became a consultant/broker just as the Great Recession of 2008-10 hit. It was a busy time for consultants as 140 U.S. banks failed in 2009 alone.

Steve brings to FirstBank the competitive spirit of an athlete seasoned with book-learning from UT and Ashland and experience gained from consulting troubled banks. Welcome home, Steve Pettit.

Who is FirstBank?

FB Financial Corporation (NYSE: FBK) is a financial holding company headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. FB Financial Corporation operates through its wholly owned banking subsidiary, FirstBank, with 81 full-service bank branches across Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama and North Georgia, and mortgage offices across the Southeast. FB Financial Corporation has approximately $12.60 billion in total assets, according to fourth quarter 2023 financial results statement.


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