At the Center of Banking
BY MARIA IANNUCCI
It takes a great deal of know-how to be a successful banker; and it takes a man like John Corbett, President and CEO of CenterState Bank, to earn the prestigious award of Community Banker of the Year by American Banker, an industry print and online publication.
Growing up in Winter Haven and Haines City, Corbett graduated from Bob Jones University in the late 80s and immediately entered the banking industry with the help of Ernest Pinner, then employed by First Union. After some initial training, Corbett moved into commercial banking and spent the next 10 years learning the business. Over time, he was growing frustrated by the lack of local decision making allowed in small towns. “It wasn’t as much fun anymore and I felt there was a better way,” said Corbett.
In 1999, Corbett and the other bank founders set out to raise the capital needed to establish a new bank in Winter Haven. They were successful in raising 10 million dollars from friends, family and customers. In April of 2000, CenterState Bank opened its doors and started the business from scratch. Since that day, Corbett has overseen the addition of 54 more bank branches stretching from Jacksonville to Okeechobee and from Labelle to Crystal River. Since 2009 alone, CenterState Bank has completed 8 bank acquisitions; including six failed banks, one open bank and four branch acquisitions. Mr. Pinner, who hired Corbett at the beginning of his career, is now CenterState Bank’s Chairman of the Board. Now considered the largest bank headquartered in Central Florida, CenterState has grown to about 2.4 billion dollars in assets.
Despite the mandatory travel that his position requires, Corbett has been happy to call Winter Haven his home. He and his wife of 21 years, Becky, are blessed with four children: Dean (18), Grace (16), Claire (13), and Clay (10). “They are my number one priority and mean the world to me,” said Corbett. “Winter Haven has always been home, and it’s where I always wanted to raise my family. We have an attractive quality of life here with a strong sense of community and within driving distance of all that Central Florida has to offer.”
CenterState has achieved great success in the banking industry despite a challenging economic environment. “I feel like we’ve navigated through the financial crisis; we’ve built a bridge to get across the crisis, but the economy is not yet growing,” said Corbett. “Banks will struggle with limited growth opportunities and increased government regulation which will lead to additional consolidation over the next few years. Yet, things are slowly improving.”
“This award is personally meaningful,” said Corbett. “The financial crisis was the greatest challenge we have faced in our careers as bankers and yet it brought our team closer together; and that’s the greatest personal award for me.”While he was directly named Community Banker of the Year, Corbett credits his staff and the organization as a whole for the acknowledgement. “Every business organization is a collection of people with a similar set of core values and at CenterState we share a common world view,” said Corbett. “Our priorities in life our similar and we trust one another completely.”