A local community banker was recently recognized for his three-decade career in the industry.
Mike Underwood, executive vice president at First Citizens Bank of Georgia, on Thursday received a lifetime service award from the Community Bankers Association of Georgia. The organization pays tribute to bankers who have marked a significant milestone in the banking industry.
"Any individual that has devoted their career, in this case 30 years, to community banking - and Mike has reached that achievement - we are honored and happy to recognize that achievement and congratulate him on it and thank him for that," said Rob Braswell, president and CEO of the Community Bankers Association of Georgia.
"It's an honor to recognize the men and women who have served the banking needs of their respective communities throughout their distinguished careers."
Underwood started his career 32 years ago at a First National Bank of Gainesville, then a community bank but now known as Regions.
From there, he joined Habersham Bank in Cornelia before helping the local board of directors organize First Citizens Bank of Georgia in 2006.
"Small communities, it's that kind of banking that I enjoy," he said. "It's been a good career. I've enjoyed it."
The Dawson County-based bank opened the following year with an emphasis on "local decision making, responsiveness, reliability, consistency and superior client service. A second branch on Bethelview Road in Cumming opened a short time later.
Underwood said the bank has long-term plans to extend into neighboring areas that don't have access to a community bank.
"When we first chartered, we said Lumpkin [County] was one of the areas we'd want to look into," he said. "We think down the road, that's where we're going to go because we do have a lot of customers in Lumpkin.
"It would be important for us to be there, especially because there is not a community bank there."
Underwood believes a community banker's success depends on his commitment to his community.
"Whether it's Boy Scouts or United Way or Kiwanis or all the service that you do ... coaching T-ball and just being involved in the community ... to me that's what community banking is all about," he said.
Underwood has served as chairman of the chambers of commerce in Dawson and White counties, as well as president of the Kiwanis clubs in Cleveland and Cornelia.
In addition, he is a member of the board of directors of the Northeast Georgia Council of the Boy Scouts of America.
With a bachelor's in finance from what was then North Georgia College, now known as University of North Georgia, Underwood also is a graduate of the University of South Carolina's Graduate School of Bank Investments and Financial Management, as well as the University of Virginia's Graduate School of Retail Bank Management.
He is also a graduate of the Georgia Academy of Regional Economic and Leadership Development, served as past president of the Leadership Division of the Community Bankers Association of Georgia and is currently on the Community Bankers Association of Georgia's Member Services Committee and the Leadership Division Board.