Matt Nations, branch leader with BB&T now Truist, hasn’t experienced a typical career trajectory. Nations was born and raised in Williamsburg, where he worked his first job as a country club water boy. In addition to collecting an hourly wage for pouring water, he made extra money doing side-work for servers. “I would take on extra tasks; my hustle game was strong,” he says. That early example of his enterprising attitude foreshadowed the rest of his career to date.
After leaving high school, Nations says, “I decided that I just wanted to live life, have fun and just run.” His prior experience in the food and beverage service industry showed him that restaurant work would fit perfectly with that lifestyle choice, and his enterprising nature made him successful within that industry.
After a few years, he decided to move away from Williamsburg for a new start. He literally threw a dart at a map, and it landed in Chicago. After years of success in Chicago bars and restaurants, and after the birth of his first child, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he continued to find success in restaurants, climbing the management ladder.
Eventually, though, Nations started to entertain the idea of a career change. The restaurant industry can provide someone with great pay, but it is very time-consuming and makes for a difficult work-life balance. Wanting more time to spend with his family, Nations started looking for a change. That’s when he found a job opening at a bank near his hometown. He applied and landed the interview.
In the interview, Nations wowed the bank manager, not only with his enterprising nature, but also with excellent interpersonal skills as a communicator and a motivator. “The bank was looking for someone who could motivate, develop and drive people,” he says, adding, “that’s what I’ve always been good at.”
Those skills made him successful in restaurants and aided him greatly in his transition to finance, but they aren’t the only talents that are responsible for his achievements.
Another aspect of his success has been a solid work ethic and willingness to tackle any task. Nations learned much of that work ethic from his father. He says, “My dad always taught me, if someone asks you to do something, just do it first, then you can complain about it later. But if you never do the task, you can’t complain about it.”
The parallels between Nations’ life and that of his father are striking. The elder Nations owned and operated his own company, doing payroll and financial work for small businesses on the Virginia Peninsula. That is, until he decided it was time for a change, just like his son would do so many years later. “One year,” says Nations, “he decided he wanted to sell his practice, get out from behind the desk and be an over-the-road truck driver.” During the summer months, father and son rode together, and by the time Matt Nations was 18, he had been to 47 of the 48 contiguous states.
Open and honest personal connections are also important drivers of Nations’ success in both industries. For this, he credits a former boss. “I had a manager early on in my career who taught me the value of an emotional deposit. I make those deposits by getting to know [someone], so that when I need something, I can then make an emotional withdrawal and lean on that person’s heartstrings to be there for me,” he says. That lesson, even though it uses the financial concepts of deposit and withdrawal, actually came from the restaurant industry, but Nations says, “it translates perfectly across the board into banking.”
Though he possesses many skills that aided his success in both industries, the transition wasn’t always easy for Nations. Even with the talents that he brought to the table, there was still new material to learn. He explains, “For 20 years I had done the same stuff; this was an entirely new industry to me.”
Among the tasks Nations had to learn on the fly were the particulars of credit and mortgages, concerns that people outside of the finance industry often trust to the professionals. That understanding came quickly enough, however, and his great people skills and caring personality really paid off. “People don’t want you to be rigid,” he says, “They want you to be real.”
Now, seven years after taking his first finance job, Nations is leading an entire branch, and his skills are still paying dividends. “The role is heavily based on outreach to clients,” he says. “We are proactive. My main objective is driving small business and being able to facilitate the needs of small business clients. At the end of the day, it’s about serving the community.”
TO THE POINT:
BB&T now Truist
Address: 737 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Newport News, VA 23601
Contact: Matt Nations, branch leader, Peninsula Main Financial Center