Scott Blackmon, '73
Originally published in December 2008
At a time in which economic stability is a concern for many South Carolinians, one Carolina graduate’s 30-plus years in the banking industry shines a beacon of optimism on today’s stressful times.
“In 36 years, I have seen a lot of interesting times—prime at 20 percent, long gas lines and banks with problems and mergers, but we have pulled out of all of them, and we will this one,” says Scott Blackmon, ’73. “I have been proud to be a part of South Carolina’s economy and the banking industry, and I look forward to the future.”
A Banker’s Life
A 1973 graduate of Carolina, Scott immediately followed the path his father forged and began working in the banking industry. He was quickly promoted through the ranks as an impressive young professional. Since then, Scott has spent his career polishing his craft and devoting himself to civic endeavors.
Some of Scott’s recent contributions to the community include chairing a United Way of the Midlands campaign and serving on its board of directors; acting as chairman of the membership committee at the Capital City Club; serving as chair of Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce; giving his time to Trustus Theatre as a board member and corporate sponsorship chairman; and, of course, giving back to Carolina through his involvement with the Business Partnership Foundation Board of Advisors and the Small Business Advisory Board.
As a business graduate, Scott takes immense pride in being a part of the first class to graduate from the newly built business school building, paving the way for Carolina’s future. Due to his involvement as a business partner on the advisory board for the Moore School of Business, Scott is personally engaged in the growth of the school.
“I’m impressed with the direction the business school has taken,” he says. “Today, it’s light years ahead of where it was when I was in school, professionally and otherwise.”
Scott especially enjoys spending time with the school’s students, noting their professionalism and interest in all things business as young adults.
His dedication has not gone unnoticed. Due to his extremely generous time spent on community service, Scott was awarded the honor of being named the Corporate Citizen of the Year by Columbia Metropolitan Magazine in 2001.
“These boards have been beneficial to me,” Scott says. “It’s part of the job, and it’s incredibly rewarding.”
A Different View
After working for existing banks for many years, Scott took a path that led him to establishing and expanding banks within the community. In 2008, Scott, along with a group of other bankers and investors, was inspired to create a different kind of bank, one that he lauds as a safe, local place to do business. Vista Bank opened in early 2008 under the watchful eye of Blackmon, whose decades of experience in the financial sector have taught him about the ways customers prefer to do business and how a bank should best service the fiscal needs of South Carolinians who bank there. Scott served as chief lending officer and president of the Vista Bank Columbia market upon its opening.
After the bank was capitalized, policies written and employees hired, Scott decided to leave the bank and pursue new business opportunities. He continues to feel banking is a very personal service and is enhanced when the bank is an integral part of the fabric of the community.
“It’s also important to keep decision making and approvals as close as possible to the customer’s location,” Scott says.
“Everything stays here or in Aiken,” Scott says of the Columbia branch and its nearby headquarters. “We don’t have to go to Charlotte, Birmingham, Atlanta or Knoxville to complete a loan. All loan underwriting is done in the same location, whereas a larger bank will package the information up and send it to a central location for processing. You save three to four weeks in the process.”
Scott says a personal touch is paramount in banking, and he has always tried to make himself accessible to all customers. While at Regions Bank on Gervais Street, he preferred to remain in his office in the main customer lobby rather than move upstairs to more spacious quarters, believing that maintaining personal contact with customers coming in and out of the bank was important.
Scott sees the central business district as a prime banking location and broke ground as the first bank in the Vista when he opened Regions Bank on Gervais Street.
“We chose Assembly Street as our location for Vista Bank because 70,000 people commute to Columbia every day,” Scott explains. “At Vista Bank, customers can easily find parking behind the building, and of course, it offers an online banking component that makes banking extremely convenient.”
It’s clear by speaking with Scott that banking—aside from his career—is a significant part of his life.
“Daddy’s teller window had carved columns on each side,” Scott recalls of his father, the late J.S. Blackmon, Sr. “I remember playing in the vault as a child, with all the silver dollars bagged up in cloth that were heavy as lead.”
He jokes that in his lifetime he has tried blood transfusions and a sabbatical to get the itch for banking out of his system, but nothing has worked up until now. At last, Scott is ready for a change. After Vista Bank was capitalized and all employees were hired, Scott decided to retire from banking for a short time to pursue other interests. Scott is now looking for his next challenge, and time will tell if it involves banking or not.
Riverwalk of Life
In 1999, Scott and his wife, Karen, were married in Rutledge Chapel on the Horseshoe, the place where he made fond memories on that precious day and also during his time on campus.
“It was impossible not to walk around the Horseshoe on a beautiful spring day,” he says of his time on campus, which in addition to his volunteer work, he keeps up with through publications from the Alumni Association and Moore School of Business.
Scott loves the city and University so much that he doesn’t think he could ever bear to leave. His son, Jay, a 2006 Carolina graduate, works at Colonial Life in town, which makes Columbia an even more beloved place for Scott and Karen.
“We like our side of the river because of the great view of Columbia, be it the sunset or the full moon,” Scott explains of his home’s premiere location on the West Columbia side of the Three Rivers Greenway Riverwalk. “We’re so close, you can see our television from the walking path.”
When Scott and Karen do manage to get away, they spend time on their 100-acre farm in Winnsboro, where he’s quick to point out that his Blackberry mobile device gets uninterrupted service. They also enjoy traveling outside the country. Not to worry; no matter where he might be, Scott is reachable.
True to his old-time banker’s roots, Scott reminds his customers: “Whether in life or in work, you can find me.”