The only way to build a personal relationship is face-to-face, according to veteran private banker Shields Cochran. Every day of his 17-year tenure at South State Bank, Cochran took this mantra to heart by taking a client to lunch – almost always to locally owned Stax.
“I’ve probably done 1,000 meals at Stax. In fact, we had my retirement party there,” Cochran said.
Relationship banking has been a major impetus for South State Bank’s growth since launching operations in Greenville in 2002, said Mike Coggin, South Carolina Upstate division president. And no one has done it better than Cochran.
When Cochran joined the bank, he was only the fifth team member hired in Greenville, and he helped propel forward a different model of private banking. Traditionally private banking services are offered to well-established executives, Cochran said, but South State offers them to young executives, too. The model has worked, gaining South State a large share of business in the medical and legal communities.
Cochran had a critical role in that success. “Cochran treats every person that he comes in contact with as the most important person he has ever met,” Coggin said. “He remembers where people were born, where they went to school, their entire work history, and the names of their kids.”
Relationships come naturally to Cochran, who was a minister at several Upstate churches for 27 years before making what he said was a very natural transition to banking.
“Let the customer know they’re important and treat them as we’d want to be treated. The Golden Rule is what we’ve gone by,” Cochran said.
Cochran’s adherence to the Golden Rule didn’t dampen his desire for results. “I’ve always chased the top and I’ve had real success,” he said.
Coggin added with a laugh, “Shields is the nicest guy in the world and also the most competitive.”
How South State plans its growth in the coming years is in part a tribute to Cochran’s legacy. “The most important thing we’ve got is our culture. Doing things the right way. Taking care of our employees and our customers. That’s the way Shields does business. We’ve got that legacy and that’s how we’re going to build our bank,” Coggin said.
As for Cochran, he’ll continue putting relationships first in his retirement. He’ll be spending time with his children and grandchildren.