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Laxton Takes the Helm

New Bank President Takes a Personal Approach

By Shane Gilreath

McCreary County banking has been under the tutelage of very few, but upon the retirement of Jim Johnson, United Cumberland Bank found itself in need of new leadership.  A recent announcement from Chairman of the Board, David Winchester, let UCB patrons know the new leader had been chosen.  The board decided that the job would be filled by Michael Laxton, 39, a Winfield, Tennessee, native with more than a decade of banking experience. 

Laxton, a 2021 graduate of LouisianaState University’s School of Banking, was quick to point out that an institution with more than a century of service was not going to be altered by changing one role.

“Our dedication to local service and community goes all the way back to our founding in 1906,” Laxton, who joined the UCB board of directors in 2020, has said. “With the team we have in place, it will continue far into the future!” 

The Tennessee native has been employed by UCB since 2005.  Holding a degree in Management Information Systems and an MBA from Tennessee Technical University, Laxton has primarily worked in Information Technology, but has additionally led the Debit Card and Bookkeeping Departments in recent years.  During his tenure, he implemented many of the bank’s electronic services, including the establishment of the UCB’s banking app.

“I’m particularly proud of our mobile app,” Laxton said, who now oversees banks in McCreary and PulaskiCounties in Kentucky, as well as Scott and Campbell Counties in Tennessee. “We think it has features that compare well with any bank, regardless of size.”

Technology, though, is a concern for bank patrons and with good reason.  A recent study by LexisNexis Risk Solutions, the global data and analytics company that provides data and technology services, predictive insights, and fraud prevention for a range of industries, showed that monthly bank fraud rose significantly during 2021.  Given this on-going assault on the banking industry, a background in technology is becoming increasingly more important, especially as technology moves the industry farther away from in-person banking. 

“I understand and recognize the dangers out there very well,” acknowledges Laxton, who pledges to keep security a priority in local institutions, expressing his confidence in his staff to take necessary measures to assure safety.  “We have always committed a lot of resources to keeping our customers’ information secured, and that will never change.”   

Laxton, a long-term member of UCB’s executive management team, also admits that the speed of transactions and doing business has also increased in recent years.  “Things that used to be done only in the back office can now be done from the phone in a customer’s pocket,” he said.  “I only see this trend continuing as technology improves and the demand for mobile services and tools increase.” 

Despite continued advances in both security and technological services, Laxton, however, doesn’t see UCB moving away from its commitment to community during his tenure.

“As a true, local community bank, our employees live alongside our customers, and we want to support them in every way we can,” he told The Voice.  “We use the same services for our families, so we have incentive to provide the best to every person who chooses to do business with us.  When you succeed, we all succeed.”

It’s a study in doing business in small communities.  Laxton admits, while growing up in Winfield, he learned the value of a dollar early.  “Knowing the value of hard work and a dollar makes one conservative, which I think everyone likes to see in their banker.”

Those small town lessons, coupled with an abundance of experience across the spectrum of UCB, could prove to serve him well in his new position. 

“I’ve had the opportunity to touch so many different areas of the bank in my role over the years,” he said, when asked what he felt led to his hiring.  “That experience has given me a unique look at how the bank is put together from the inside out.” In his approach, Laxton, who shares four sons with his wife, Erin, also recalled a practical childhood lesson from his own father that he believes has served him well.

“Dad always taught us there was a right tool for the job.  If you’re struggling, then step back and make sure you’re using the right one.  That can be true for just about any profession or role and holds true when looking for the right person to fill a position. That’s always stuck with me,” he said. 

“I just want to help our customers get the financial services they need while providing the best customer service experience possible.”

That drive to provide the best service available with a down home flavor is surely the approach that led to his leadership position.

“It is always a pleasure to identify talented individuals within the bank to fill important positions,” Winchester said.  “Certainly, naming Michael to the position of President and CEO reflects our confidence in him, as well as his track record of excellence during his 17 years with United Cumberland Bank.  Our customers and communities will be well-served by his leadership and hands-on involvement in the operation of our bank.”

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