ABA Banking Journal - July/August 2017 - 42
> BRYAN JORDAN
Eyes on the Horizon
Under CEO Bryan Jordan, Memphis-based First Horizon
enjoys strong steady growth. He wants a regulatory
environment that helps all banks do the same.
BY EVAN SPARKS
ot long after he became chairman and CEO of First
Horizon National Corporation in 2008, Bryan Jordan
found himself at the doctor. The doctor asked him
what he did for a living, and Jordan replied that he was
a banker. "Who do you work for?" the physician asked.
"I said I work for First Horizon, and I started explaining what
I did and he let me go on longer than I should have," Jordan
remembers with a chuckle. "I really put my sales pitch on-
and after a few minutes he looked at me and said 'That's great,
but you're not as good as First Tennessee.'"
The joke, of course, is that First Tennessee is the retail and
commercial bank of Memphis-based First Horizon-and the
former name is more widely known in Tennessee, where the
bank ranks first in deposit market share, as well as in several
But although 153-year-old First Tennessee may be the holding
company's best-known brand, Jordan is swift to clarify that
First Horizon is a much bigger and more diverse business.
The midsize banking organization also includes a wealth
management subsidiary with locations across the southeast
and FTN Financial, a fixed income sales and trading firm
serving banks and other institutional customers nationwide.
A diverse mix
Having a fixed income unit may be a bit unusual for a midsize
or regional bank, but in Jordan's view it's a natural fit. "We've
been in the fixed income business for over 80 years," he
explains. Memphis is historically one of the country's largest
bond distribution centers outside of Wall Street. (Asset
management giant Raymond James' fixed income business is
headquartered there.) In 2014, with FTN analysts consistently
beating Wall Street on long-term yield forecasts, Bloomberg
said traders should visit Memphis for "some of the best
bond-market advice to be found anywhere."
ABA BANKING JOURNAL | JULY/AUGUST 2017
FTN's core business is matching up buyers and sellers of
fixed income securities. Half of its customers are financial
institutions-representing about one-third of all U.S.
depositories-and FTN does business with about half of
banks with securities portfolios of more than $100 million. It's
also rapidly expanding its presence as a major underwriter of
municipal bond issues.
"We have a really great business that's very broad and
diverse," says Jordan. "What I like so much about it is that
it's a relationship-oriented business." For example, FTN can
leverage its banking expertise to pair fixed income products
with advice on asset-liability management. "We look at it as a
very good fee-income oriented business that provides stable
returns over the long term."
Not all of First Horizon's diversification efforts have played
out with the same success. In the 1990s and 2000s, the
company had rapidly expanded its mortgage business
outside of its home markets. Not long after joining First
Horizon as CFO in 2007, as the housing market softened,
Jordan led efforts to substantially narrow the mortgage
business, selling off hundreds of out-of-state mortgage
production offices and hundreds of millions of dollars' worth
of assets. The company also cut retail banking markets in
Georgia, Texas and Virginia.
It was important to "reposition the business," Jordan explains.
"All of that was done against the backdrop of an organization
that had an extraordinarily strong culture, a desire to get
things right and build the franchise for the long haul."
Eyewitness to growth
The son of a banker growing up in North Carolina, "I was
always learning about the banking business," Jordan
recalls. After graduating from Catawba College with a