Mike Duckworth has come full circle since rejoining Regions Bank earlier this year.
The city president for Regions started in the industry when he was 18 years old as a drive-through teller for the Bank of Columbia County as he worked his way through college at Augusta College.
Today that branch on Columbia Road where he began his career is a Regions location and where Duckworth reports to work each day as he helps commercial clients.
"I always wanted to be a banker. I just had an interest in money and accounting," Duckworth said. "I enjoyed the financial part of it, analyzing the financial statements, and meeting people."
Since starting part time as a bank teller, Duckworth's employers have included Allied Bank, Wachovia, First Presbyterian Church and Augusta GYN, Obstetrics & Gynecology.
His work outside the banking field totals nearly 15 years, and those experiences have helped him become more effective at his current job, Duckworth said.
"That just gives me a leg up because now I understand what it's like to have to make payroll, worry about advertising, worry about hiring staff, worry about the building," he said.
Throughout his first decade in banking, Duckworth worked in operations, commercial and retail banking. Starting out as a teller was a positive, he said.
"It helped me certainly with providing customer service and learning how to take good care of your customers and sell different products and give them a good impression of our bank," Duckworth said.
A commitment to customer service and attention to detail are qualities that colleagues and clients said help him stand out.
"He follows through on his promises. He takes initiative to seek out extra things that would benefit me as a client," said Jason Lott, a physical therapist and owner of Evans Rehabilitation Services, who is working with Duckworth on a small business loan to create a monitored fitness facility called Health Quest Fitness Consultants.
Lott said he had negotiated with seven or eight banks before deciding to go with Regions and Duckworth.
He added that he has been "super impressed" with the process so far and Duckworth's promptness and responsiveness.
From checks to checkups
After a decade in banking, Duckworth left Wachovia, where he handled commercial lending, to be the administrator at First Presbyterian Church.
In that role, he handled the business side of the church -- coordinating maintenance, staffing and answering questions for church members.
"It allows the ministers to shepherd the membership, and it keeps business separate from ministry," he said.
While he served as administrator, the church's projects included purchasing two mission residences in Augusta.
A member of First Baptist Church -- and its current treasurer -- he said working at a church he did not attend was good because it kept church and business separate.
After five years at First Presbyterian, Duckworth left to manage Augusta GYN. During nearly a decade there, he helped grow the practice from eight physicians to 12.
"We were able to grow the practice from a patient standpoint and also from a staff standpoint, and it allowed us to offer additional services to our patients," he said.
"We often prided ourselves in being a one-stop shop, a one-stop medical practice for our patients."
During Duckworth's time at the practice, he took a hands-on approach and was detail-oriented, said Dr. Bill Barfield, a physician at Augusta GYN for 34 years.
"He was hands down the best person we ever had running our business," Barfield said. "He very quickly picked up every facet of our office."
When Duckworth began working at the practice, he spent time in each department to get a better understanding of how the office worked.
"He had a grasp of everything, and everyone liked him. He grew our practice," Barfield said. "It was pretty obvious after he had been there awhile that we probably wouldn't be able to keep him."
Duckworth said his experience in banking helped him manage both the medical practice and church successfully.
"The skills that I learned at the bank --which were organizational skills, analytical skills, customer-service skills -- are certainly applicable in both the church and medical practice," he said.
"In the end, the rule of thumb I use as a manger-banker-employee is it's all in the way you communicate with people."
In the community
Raised in Harlem, Duckworth said he enjoys giving back to the community.
In addition to his work at First Baptist, he also serves on the board of directors for the local council of the Boy Scouts and as secretary for the Augusta Exchange Club.
"It's important to give back to the community that has raised me and supported me," he said.
Duckworth has been married to his wife, Meg, for 16 years and has three children.
In his spare time, he said, he enjoys spending time with his family and supporting them in their sports, school and church activities.
Back to banking
When Duckworth returned to banking this year, he found more regulation. While those regulations provide new challenges, he said, the financial industry is adapting to them.
In his day-to-day role at Regions Bank, Duckworth conducts commercial banking with companies ranging from medical practices to logging companies.
"What I do is service all of their banking needs, including their checking account needs, their loan needs, their bank service needs and the owner's personal needs," he said.
Although the economic downturn has created a generally tighter lending environment, Regions Bank is still giving out loans, Duckworth said.
"Regions is lending money, but more than ever it's important for the owners to keep their business affairs in order," he said. "What I like to do a lot of times is, if we can't necessarily help someone with a loan, then I try to help them work through what they can do to achieve the loan or maybe find another alternative. We work a good bit with the (Small Business Administration)."
Duckworth said his goals are to help the bank grow in the coming years and to continue to improve his skills as a banker. He said he works with a talented group of people.
"Change is certainly sure in life. It's all in the attitude that you take," he said. "I've just taken the attitude that I can meet challenges, and I just appreciate the opportunity that Regions has given me to share my knowledge and hopefully grow our bank."