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MBJ Liz Braswell

AmeriFirst Bank’s Montgomery president has been in the capital city for almost 20 years and sees a promising future for the community and for the role her community bank will continue to play here.

How long have you been in banking? Since 1989. I was in Union Springs, AmeriFirst’s home base, and worked for one of the two banks that merged to be­come AmeriFirst. I’ve been city president here at AmeriFirst since 1999.

What’s your impression of the business climate in Montgomery? The business climate here and everywhere has improved a lot in the last few years, as we come out of the recession. That was hard on all banks and all businesses all over. But locally, we’ve seen some great things happening in the city. We have good leadership at both the county and city levels. There is good growth happening right now, and that’s good for us as we do a lot of construction and commercial loans. The revitalization of downtown is something I really never thought would happen, but it did, and I love it. I’m a big Biscuits fan and believe that the transformation downtown is something the entire city can be proud of. Internally, we got a new CEO, and he has been a breath of fresh air and put us in growth mode too.

What are the major differences between a community bank and a large, corporate bank? We make the decisions locally. That lets us do things that other, larger banks can’t do. We provide hands-on service and real relationship banking. A great example is To Your Health Sprouted Flour Co., based in Fitzpatrick, in Mont­gomery County. When the founder started that company, she had trouble finding a bank because her business didn’t fit in a neat box. We took her on, and the company just cele­brated its 10th anniversary and is an amazing success story. I love that we are a part of that story.

What role does AmeriFirst play in Montgomery? We want to be a strong partner with this community, but we are not for everyone. There are people who want to bank completely online, and that is great, but we are not the bank for them. But for consumers and commercial customers who want to pick up the phone and talk to their banker, that’s us. Customer service is not a thing of the past here.

What challenges are facing your bank? We are dealing with the main challenge facing all banks: so many regulations that make banking more complicated, stressful and a lengthier process than it needs to be. If we don’t get the situation fixed, it will just get harder and harder for people to bank. And that’s anywhere. All banks are drowning in regulations that are supposed to be on behalf of the consumer but actually make it harder for both banks and their customers to do business together.

What do you love about your job? My customers. I love helping people realize their dreams, whether it is reno­vating a building downtown or starting a new business.

What, outside of your job (and the Biscuits), are you passionate about? I am a wife, mother of four and grandmother of one, and I’m loving the grandmother role. I’m very involved in the Chamber’s Women in Business Group, and I put a lot of my heart and my time into the Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama. About eight years ago, District Attorney Ellen Brooks “tricked” me into being on the board, but it has turned out to be one of the most wonderful and fulfilling things I’ve ever done. I feel like Girl Scouts is really giving girls in our area some opportunities they just would not have otherwise.

What does the future look like for your bank in Montgomery? We have always had steady growth, but I see more coming. We have some heavy hitters working in lending, so we intend to go after and get a bigger piece of that pie. But we will remain committed to customer service. My staff makes that possible. We all care about what we do, and we are all on the same train moving forward.

41 Commerce Street, P.O. Box 79, Montgomery, Alabama 36101   Tel: 334.834.5200   Fax: 334.265.4745   Sitemap