Meet Leroy Abrahams. He was recently named Regions Financial Corp.’s north central Alabama area president. The 28-year banking veteran is still somewhat new to Birmingham. He moved to the Magic City in 2013, for his previous role as the head of strategic and corporate planning for Regions. Before then, Abrahams worked for SunTrust Banks Inc. as president and CEO of the Hampton Roads region in Virginia. In addition, he held roles as the retail banking executive and central group retail line of business leader. Prior to joining SunTrust, Abrahams held the position of consumer banking manager in eastern Tennessee for Regions Bank.
What do you think is Birmingham’s greatest asset? From what I’ve seen so far, I would say that Birmingham’s people is our greatest asset. Since moving into town, I think the reception has been very warm. The funny thing is my wife got here before I did, and she had already fallen in love with the place before I could even show up. We’ve found a lot of friendly people. The values of the individuals here are probably one of the greatest strengths of this community.
If you weren’t a banker, what other career path would you have taken? I would probably be in education, potentially the ministry in some capacity. Both of those, I know, sound really inconsistent with banking. But there’s a lot of ways to help people. That’s one of the things that I find most motivating about what I do.
What’s the biggest personal challenge for you in leading Regions in northern Alabama? The organization has such a deep and long history in this area. I think I follow in the footsteps of many individuals who have done such a great job. The biggest challenge is to continue the momentum we’ve had for a long period of time and continue to grow on that. There are always opportunities to get better, and our commitment as an organization – my commitment as an individual – is to do that. But we’ve set a high bar, and it’ll be a challenge just to continue to chin that bar.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? The best business advice that I’ve ever been given was from a boss, who said, “Always try to hire people who are smarter than you are.”
What’s your vision for Regions in northern Alabama going forward? When I look at where we are and what we’ve done, my vision would be that we continue to move forward. Again, I think we have a lot of momentum. There’s a lot of history and a solid foundation. But if you’re not moving forward, then you’re not standing still, you’re actually moving backward. To be more specific, when I think about us in the community, I think about our efforts around financial education. I see us continuing to emphasize that. I think we’re uniquely positioned to be able to provide that knowledge, advice and guidance and to help people be able to make better financial decisions on an individual basis or for their companies.
How would you describe your leadership style? My leadership style is one that I would say is collaborative. I like to get a variety of opinions – whether they agree with me or not – because I think we get to the best answer that way. I try to be very transparent with people, no hidden agendas. I’m very much interested in the people who are working for me and with me and their success. I think my success is very much linked to their ability to be successful and to find what they do rewarding and challenging.
What’s the best way to keep a competitive edge? Never be satisfied with where you are. Never grow complacent. Always be hungry.
What is the hardest lesson you’ve learned? As I look back at my career, I would say one of the hardest lessons has been that perception is often more reality than reality is. What I mean by that is regardless of what an individual’s intent may be, how they are ultimately perceived will determine how they are treated; and so, the perception is sometimes a lot more important than we would like to think it is.
Where’s your favorite place to dine? Probably our dining room upstairs. I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to eat at a lot more establishments here soon.