Sports probably kept George Makris out of jail.
At least, that’s his telling of it. Makris is now chairman and CEO of Simmons First National Corp, the holding company of Simmons Bank, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, but he admits he wasn’t a great kid. Thanks to the guidance of his parents and a love of sports, Makris ended up on a more straight and narrow path.
He played baseball and football at Washington and Lee University in Virginia in the 1970s and then transferred closer to home, to Rhodes College in Memphis. He took over running his family’s Anheuser-Busch beer distributorship, which has several parallels to banking. For one, they’re both sensitive to interest rates. Makris says that when interest rates rise, people tend to move from Budweiser to Busch.
While it may seem odd to go from beer to banking, Makris did so gradually. He joined the board of Worthen National Bank, a small bank, in the 1980s. Through consolidation, that bank eventually became a part of Bank of America Corp. He joined Simmons’ board in 1997. Years later, Simmons’ longtime CEO Tommy May had to step down because of illness.
The board asked Makris to take the top job. Close to a decade later, the bank has grown from under $4 billion in assets to more than $27 billion in assets, mostly through strategic acquisitions.
He talks in this episode of The Slant Podcast about market share and how lessons from sports can help navigate life and career. Due to technical difficulties, this conversation has been abbreviated.
This episode, and all past episodes of The Slant Podcast, are available on Bank Director.com, Spotify and Apple Music.