When Debra McGee, senior vice president and director of minority business development at BankPlus, is asked about the key to her successful career in banking, she humbly replies, “It’s not all about me.”
“Doing things for others, that is what’s important,” she goes on to say. “It’s the little things that make our communities and our state a better place.”
It’s that philosophy that drew McGee to BankPlus almost 15 years ago. Born and raised in the Palmer’s Creek community of Hattiesburg, McGee attended Petal High School and later received a degree in Business Administration from William Carey. After college, she intended to follow some friends out to Texas to get a job in the oil industry, but looking back she says she realizes God had other plans.
McGee’s first job after college was as a teller with Citizen’s Bank in Hattiesburg, now Trustmark. Through hard work and determination, she continued to grow with Citizen’s, eventually transferring to a branch in Jackson. After an impressive 18 year career, McGee was approached by BankPlus to manage their Adkins Boulevard branch, which was being constructed. At the time, McGee says BankPlus was still a small institution diligently expanding into other markets.
“BankPlus had that small, community bank feel,” she explains. “They were all about providing customer service, no matter what walk of life you came from. It is a great place to work. They believe in giving back and making a difference. It’s like a breath of fresh air in that we are not just a name.”
Shortly after becoming manager of the Adkins location, Nissan North American announced they were building an assembly plant in Canton. McGee was asked to work with the management team at Nissan to establish BankPlus as its bank of choice. She eventually formed long-standing friendships with members of Nissan’s management team, which lead to McGee’s appointment as Nissan project manager. Her key role – establish a full-service BankPlus branch within the plant.
Says McGee, “It was different than what I was used to because we had never opened a branch inside a manufacturing facility. I had to oversee building the bank, hiring staff, and making sure the branch was able to service all the plant’s employees.”
The venture turned out to be a success. Later, BankPlus approached McGee about working with Jackson State University to establish the same type of relationship she had forged with Nissan. Together, BankPlus and JSU have developed a unified alliance that brought banking services to the campus in addition to a $1 million endowment to the School of Business to establish an accounting professorship. At the bank’s Dalton Street branch, located adjacent from the University, McGee oversees small business development for individuals and minorities in addition to financial literacy classes and mentoring for students.
In addition to business development, McGee is responsible for bringing new banking products to the market for BankPlus customers. She is particularly passionate about finding ways to teach people how to help themselves and become more financially savvy. One program McGee helped to establish is the CreditPlus program, which teaches participants how to make wise financial decisions through seminars and products that assist with establishing good savings habits and effective credit management.
“I really enjoy my job,” McGee adds. “I am a people person and I like taking part in providing resources that allow people to help themselves.”