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Banking and Finance Symposium Provides Education to Students and Professionals Alike

Yenu Wodajo, left, answers a question during the 2018 UM Banking and Finance Symposium Friday at the Oxford Conference Center. Other panelists included Joshua Jacobs, middle, and Justin Joy, right. Photo by Alyssa Schnugg.

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

To many people, phrases like ‘attracting quality deposits’ and ‘merger and acquisitions vs. capital expansion’ can make them tilt their head like a puppy hearing an unfamiliar and confusing sound.

But for bankers and students of finance, they were the hot topics of the day Friday during the University of Mississippi 2018 Banking and Finance Symposium.

The event, hosted by Ken Cyree, dean of the UM Business School, and emceed by Stan Viner, chair of the Ole Miss Banking and Finance Advisory Board, allowed stakeholders in the banking industry to learn more about current trends and issues in the banking and finance world.

It’s the 18th year for the annual symposium.

Kicking off the event at the Oxford Conference Center was UM Chancellor Jeff Vitter who welcomed everyone and introduced a special guest, Mississippi’s Gov. Phil Bryant, who spoke on the economic impact of banks. Following Bryant was Lord Ashcroft who talked on how business and entrepreneurs are funded. Guest speaker, Hank Watkins spoke on the risk to consider for banks while approximately 200 guests enjoyed lunch.

Other guest speakers included Grayson Hall, chairman of Regions Bank and Al Dominick, CEO of Bank Director Magazine.

“The Banking Symposium is designed to provide continuing education to our banking students and finance professionals,” Cyree said after the symposium. “We have been fortunate to have outstanding speakers throughout the 18-year history, and this year was tremendous.”

Ole Miss is one of the few universities to offer a banking and finance degree.

“Our university students were able to interact with financial professionals and connect classroom learning to real-world issues that enhance their education and preparation for entering the industry,” Cyree said.

Viner said the main focus of the symposium is education.

“We’re trying to offer the students as well as faculty and any attendee an educational experience with a one-trip drive to really fill in some knowledge of trends. We also offer continuing education credits for accountants and those who have to track educational experiences,” he said.

As a special incentive for students and young professionals, those under 35 years old were able to attend the event at no cost.

In the afternoon, there were three panels that discussed a variety of issues facing banking and finance professionals.

Viner said the topics were chosen by surveying members of the Ole Miss Banking and Finance Advisory Board and local bankers on what issues and trends they thought would be timely.

One of the panels focused on Cybersecurity and how banks can protect themselves. Sitting on the panel was Joshua Jacobs, president and co-founder of Sawyers & Jacobs LLC, a consulting firm focused on serving financial institutions; Justin Joy, an attorney with Lewis Thomason Firm; and Yenu Wodajo with Willis Towers Watson, a risk management, insurance brokerage and advisory company.

Moderator Jimmy Sawyers spoke of a bank in Virginia who was hacked twice and suffered a $2.4 million loss which wasn’t covered under its insurance policy.

Panel speaker Wodajo said needing cybersecurity insurance is something that’s popped up just in the last 10 years.

“The exposure to banks is unique because you not only have an issue with a quantity of data – you’re serving a multitude of data – but also a quality issue,” she said during the panel discussion. “You have some of the most private, important information and data on people that can be compromised. You have the combinations of those two exposures which creates a real challenge with security and also an importance of the insurance coverage that has to now be in place.”

The symposium was the brainchild of the Ole Miss Banking and Finance Advisory Board, which will be celebrating its 20-year anniversary in 2019. The board’s original members wanted to do something that would give back to Ole Miss and support the business school. Those members included Hugh Potts, Griffin Norquist, Pete Boone, Robin McGraw and Rod Taylor. Potts and Taylor also attended Friday’s symposium.

“It’s great to see these founding fathers still participating,” Viner said.


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