Thad Walton exudes the confidence and poise it takes to win in any courtroom. But you won’t find him there. You are more likely to find him on the road meeting clients as he helps business owners and leaders throughout North Carolina realize their financial goals.
We caught up with Walton, who holds both a business degree and law degree, to learn more about how he has navigated a successful career in finance.
You broke from your family path in choosing a career in banking, tell us about that.
Honestly, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was in college, other than stay all four years. My older brother, now an attorney, had finished in three and half and gave me the Billy Madison “Stay here!” advice. My sister is also an attorney, but I decided to pursue a business degree knowing it would be applicable to anything I might want to do. Through a summer internship in commercial banking after my junior year, I learned that finance could provide the opportunity to learn how the world works – to see how people start, grow, and operate businesses
You graduated shortly after the dot com bubble. How did that impact your career path?
That’s right. I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2004 into a somewhat tight job market but was fortunate to land a commercial banking job with a regional bank in Charlotte. While the bank provided ample on-the-job training opportunities, I was still very interested in bettering myself and my career outside of normal work hours, which I frequently expressed to my manager.
As a result, our local market executive enrolled me in the CFP® Certification (certified financial planner) process, which I completed in two years. As that ended in 2007, I started looking once again for my next opportunity to continue learning. I had previously taken the LSAT during my senior year in college, and while at a networking event, bumped into the local leadership of a new law school in Charlotte.
Several of my CFP® courses were like first year law classes, and I really enjoyed them, so within a month after completing the CFP® certification, I enrolled in the evening program at Charlotte School of Law. I was very excited to get this education without having to move away from Charlotte (or my future wife, whom I had just met).
I realized in my second year of law school that I had no drive to practice law. I loved the curriculum and as a night student, the ability to instantly apply it the next day at work; but I truly enjoyed being a commercial banker. It was as if a light went off – the investment in law school was paying off in multiple ways: the curriculum itself, and I was also getting much better at my job.
My coursework in Commercial Law and Commercial Transactions helped me see that there was more to banking than what I was doing at the time. I ended up completing my law degree in 2011 and passed the bar with no real intention of becoming a lawyer. My daughter was born the next day, which made for a very cool week.
You joined Regions in 2011, tell us about your career path here.
When I learned about the opportunity with Regions in Charlotte, my father-in-law (who is from Baton Rouge, lived in Hoover, Alabama, for several years, and also spent time with Union Planters in Nashville, Tennessee), really encouraged me to consider it. I met with several bankers here and saw the vision they painted for Regions in this market.
The bank was investing in Charlotte, and it felt like a good opportunity to be part of that growth. From the first interview, I was very transparent that I was looking to grow in my role and pursue promotion and leadership opportunities in the future.
I first started in Business Banking and when the Middle Market group was born out of Corporate Banking in 2014, I was fortunate to move roles and cover larger companies in North Carolina and Virginia – yet with no book, no business, starting from scratch. I was fortunate to win a few large relationships in the first 18 months, and subsequently inherited a small portfolio from another banker who had left the bank.
In 2017, we merged my line of business back in with Business Banking and changed our reporting structure, but distractions aside, it was largely business as usual for me. In July 2019, and somewhat overnight, I was incredibly humbled to move into the Commercial Banking leader role for the Charlotte market, tasked with rebuilding and growing the team here.
We had just hired a very strong banker two months earlier and quickly added three more – thankfully before the start of the pandemic. Finally, in January of 2021 we merged the Charlotte and Raleigh markets, so I am now the commercial banking leader for our combined North Carolina team. With several new hires last year, we now have a team of eight bankers across the state, with more growth plans on the horizon.
What changed for you moving into a leadership role?
The transition is not as easy as it looks. I was always vocal and collaborative but being the “captain” of the team is very different than being the “coach.” For me, the challenge has been more fulfilling than I expected. Having been in the market for 10 years with Regions, seeing the opportunity and knowing we could do more here – it’s exciting to be able to influence and shape the way Regions will look in Charlotte over the next 10 years.
I also realize the importance of being present – being physically in our markets, being with the teams that serve our clients. That is why I’m often on the road. As a relationship business, we need to be in front of our clients and our teams regularly to continuously build trust and confidence.
What advice would you give those looking to advance their career?
Work hard, be transparent, and be patient. I experienced some bumps and bruises – and will likely have more; despite appearances, my career hasn’t been linear. Take initiative, ask for opportunity, but most importantly – focus on being your absolute best in your current role. You can be a leader regardless of your job title – be a good teammate, set an example. Things work out how they work out.
What advice would you give to college student or recent graduates who are considering a career in banking?
The best advice I got in my twenties was “never stop learning.” In your twenties and early thirties, you have the bandwidth for additional education, to apply what you are learning as you build your career.
If someone is doing something you’re interested in, ask them every question you can about what they do. Ask for feedback on everything you do and seek continuous personal improvement. Banking is unique as you gain a lot of exposure to many things. The ability to help people is a gift and if you approach your day with this mentality, there is so much satisfaction in the job.
You are also involved in your local community, tell us about what moves you.
I most recently coached my 8-year-old’s little league team and was fired as our pitcher after about three games and 25 beanballs – a nice dose of humility. I’m currently on the local board of the American Red Cross and serving on an event committee for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital (also served in this capacity 2012-2015). My oldest son has cerebral palsy and I have been part of the Levine Children’s Hospital Dreamcatcher Society since 2016. I’m a a father of four, and Levine has meant so much to my family. We feel compelled to give back whenever possible.
Walton has been recognized for his leadership inside Regions Bank and in local recognitions where he was named as a Charlotte Business Journal 40 under 40 honoree in 2021. In September 2021, he joined Ben Kinney, publisher of BusinessNC magazine, for the Weekly Roundup podcast. He also participated as a panelist in the BusinessNC Fast 40 awards event recognizing the fastest growing mid-market companies in North Carolina.
Ready to build your career at Regions?
Associates are Regions’ most valuable resource. When they succeed, Regions succeeds. Looking for a place to chart your personal career course? Visit the careers page on regions.com to search current job listings and to learn more about working at Regions.