In our latest customer story, we had the opportunity to speak with Dan Fulham, Vice President and Asset Quality Manager at community bank, Fidelity Bank. Dan and Fidelity Bank have seen steady growth over the past few years and they are doing everything they can to keep it in that direction. We had the chance to speak with him about the financial industry, how they’ve overcome appraisal hurdles at their bank, how they give back to the community, as well as stay ahead of top trends in the financial industry. Let’s hear his story straight from down in New Orleans, AKA the Big Easy:
Can you give me a little bit of background on Fidelity Bank and your role?
Fidelity Bank is a community bank headquartered in New Orleans mainly covering Southeastern Louisiana. We’ve been in business since 1908, have roughly 400 people working with us, and operate at 18 different branches. We also have many loan officers with our subsidiary Nola Lending.
I wear a lot of hats at the bank but my primary role is to manage the appraisal ordering and review process. Thankfully, I have a few people on my team to help too. I also monitor the commercial construction portfolio when it comes to the watchlist and allowances for loan and lease loss.
How’d you get your start in the financial industry?
After earning my MBA, I wanted to stay in New Orleans and had an interest in finance, so it worked out perfectly to start working in banking. I’ve been in different roles at various banks but I’ve been with Fidelity Bank for over seven years now.
What’s the most difficult part of your role as an Asset Quality Manager?
I would say juggling the different roles as well as various internal and external customers I work with on a daily basis. When you’re working with many different types of people, they all have different levels of experience dealing with your particular area, so it’s sometimes tough to bring them up to speed on why we do certain things and how we do them at our financial institution. It’s not always that we want to do it a certain way, but we have to so we can remain compliant with the latest regulations. The loan officers are on a deadline to get the appraisal completed as quickly as possible but you can’t cut any corners or you’ll risk having an inaccurate appraisal.
What do you think are the biggest hurdles community banks and credit unions need to overcome when it comes to appraisal management?
For smaller, community banks like us, I’d say a cost analysis of when to bring in a third party to manage the appraisal process. An AMC can help to handle the ins and outs of appraisal management, like bidding and receiving appraisals. Keeping track of all the appraisers’ licenses and insurance can also be handled by an outside vendor and be a huge burden off the financial institution. They can also help to manage the ever-changing regulations so you don’t have to bring on additional employees to keep up with these changes.
What made finding an appraisal partner so important to Fidelity Bank?
For us, having an AMC partner helps us to be more efficient and allows one person to manage the orders and reviews. They’ll handle all the details and coordination to have the appraiser complete the appraisal and then order the review. We also review all appraisals after the review is complete but we don’t complete an analysis nearly as in-depth as the reviewer did. MountainSeed also ensures we are compliant with the latest regulations and appraisal guidelines.
It gives us confidence since we aren’t appraisers by trade.
What’s your team at Fidelity Bank working towards this year?
In the last few years, the bank’s been headed in a positive direction as far as quality and earnings and we are going to try to keep it going. We’ve seen some new opportunities arrive recently from observing others in the industry that reinforces the fact if you do things right, you’ll be here for a long time. Slow and steady is always better than fast and exploding.
How is Fidelity Bank different?
Traditionally we are a homestead and construction loan company for individual residencies. In 2008, we transitioned to a chartered commercial bank which allowed us to start offering commercial loans and consumer loans such as home equity lines of credit (HELOC) and lot loans.
All of our decision making is local too. We live here. We work here. We know this market. It’s inspiring to see the businesses we work with growing into successful local businesses we frequently go to. I think people who work in the banking industry, ideally, chose this field to help someone start out, see them grow, and prosper into something successful, and you know you were a part of that process — it’s very fulfilling.
Do you partner with any organizations or non-profits?
A lot actually. In the community we work closely with: Odyssey House, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, LA Cultural Economy, Dollars for Scholars, Good Shepherd School, Children’s Hospital, Habitat for Humanity New Orleans/Northshore, Boys Hope, Dryades YMCA, Al Copeland Foundation, Poydras Home, Second Harvest, American Heart Association, Preservation Resource Center, WYES, Greater New Orleans Foundation, Teach for America, Child’s Wish, Youth Empowerment Program, NOMA, Tipitinas Foundation, Dress for Success, Got Our Troops, and Girls on the Run.
What do you like to do in your free time?
In my spare time, I like to be with my family. I’ve been married for 10 years and have a 3-year-old daughter. I’m also close with our immediate family and 2 out of my 3 brothers live locally so we try to have family dinners frequently. Luckily my friends are my neighbors, and every so often we get together and either have a BBQ or crawfish boil. Outside of friends and family though, I’m either fishing, exercising, or traveling.
What’s your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere where there’s a beach. Fortunately, I’ve traveled a good bit throughout the world and the islands of Greece were probably my favorite.
Do you have any pets?
Yes. We have one dog named Cayenne… yes… like the pepper.
Do you have a morning routine you’re hooked to?
Most mornings I walk the dog and work out.
How do you stay up to date on the latest news and trends in the financial industry?
What is the biggest risk you have taken in your life or career?
In my life, my biggest risk was jumping out of airplanes in the military. As for my career, the biggest risk I’ve taken is switching jobs too early in my career thinking the grass was greener on the other side. When in actuality, I should have stayed and explored the opportunities I had with my existing company.