Beyond Banking: Meet Nelson Powell

August 9, 2023

For more than 40 years, First Bank and Trust Company has remained a people-focused organization, driven by incredible customers and dedicated team members. Each member of our team is empowered to prioritize our individual customers, offering comprehensive solutions to suit their unique and sometimes complex needs. While our bankers serve all manner of individual customers and numerous industries through our business banking solutions, one industry has remained central to our operation – agriculture.

Agriculture lending and financial management requires a specialized skillset, one we have proudly cultivated since the bank’s inception. As we continue striving to support the agriculture industry and the needs of independent farming operations large and small, growing our agriculture lending team in strategic and insightful ways is a priority. Adding Nelson Powell to our team is one of many ways we are continuing to elevate the support we offer to farmers in the North Carolina market and beyond.

Nelson Powell on personal farm with cows
Nelson Powell on his Bicentennial farm in Taylors Bridge, NC

In May of 2022, Powell joined First Bank and Trust Co. of Virginia, the North Carolina division of First Bank and Trust Company, as a senior vice president and agriculture & commercial lending officer. After more than two decades in the industry, Powell brings a well-curated expertise to all his customers throughout North Carolina. As a local, he utilizes his extensive knowledge of the local region’s economic landscape to provide intelligent solutions and insights to all First Bank and Trust customers.

Now, learn more about how Nelson Powell joined the financial services and agriculture industries and what led him to First Bank and Trust Company.

What initially drew you to the financial services industry?

I’ve been interested in finances and financial management since I was very young. I grew up on a family farm so for as long as I can remember, I’ve been learning about commodities, livestock, equipment purchases, and real estate decisions, all of which pertain to effective financial management of a farming operation. When I was young, I was driven to understand the mechanics of it, I wanted to know the what, why, and how. My career took a little bit of a winding path but 20 years ago, it led me to finance, and I immediately knew it was a passionate career, not just a job.

Nelson Powell speaking at podium
Nelson Powell facilitates an agricultural advocacy talk at the United States Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

How is your role important to your community?

I’m operating in my home community. As an experienced agricultural and commercial banker, I’m presented with an opportunity to assist many folks in a multitude of ways. Sometimes they are people I’ve known my whole life and I get to help realize their financial goals. I’m also blessed to serve on multiple boards that enrich life in our community. I’m a member of the Board of Trustees for our local hospital, I serve on the County Agriculture Advisory Board, and I’m a Deacon at my church. In each of those roles, I’m able to put my experience to work bettering our community in real and practical ways.

Why is your role important right now, considering the current economy and the state of the agriculture industry?

One simple fact, experience. When you are looking toward the future, nothing gives perspective better than a history you’ve lived through and learned from. Seasoned financial professionals are becoming harder to find within the banking world today. Currently, there’s a chasm of talent in many fields and banking is no exception. We’ve seen a massive wave of experienced bankers retiring. They brought so much depth and consistency to the marketplace and their absence is felt deeply. While new and young bankers joining the world of finance are eager to learn they don’t always have experienced mentors available to them. In an industry like banking, that mentor-minded leadership is critical. While developing my career, I was fortunate enough to glean years of experience from some incredible mentors. Now, I put that expertise to work every day.

Individually, what sets you apart from others in your industry?

I am a farmer, a small business owner, and I am a banker. Because of my personal experience, clients don’t need to spend as much time trying to help me understand their business. Instead, they are able to talk to me about their needs right away. I live every day in the same world as our clients and few things establish understanding like the experience of doing.

Nelson Powell and others watching row crop operations
Nelson Powell visits a customer's crop farm to better understand their unique needs.

What is unique or different about the services First Bank and Trust offers?

First Bank and Trust Company approaches clients from a completely different perspective. Here, we start by asking, “what do you need to best serve your business?” The more generally popular approach in the financial world begins by asking, “how do you fit, into the products we offer?” Unfortunately, that product-focused approach is only becoming more popular. By contrast, our tailored approach looks more unique all the time. We are here to help you succeed. That looks different for everyone, and we get it!

The flexibility of our approach is really important to the average client, whether they realize it or not. As most farmers know, you can fix a lot more with an adjustable wrench and a good pair of pliers than you can by plundering through a thousand wrenches.

What do you wish more customers understood about the financial services industry?

It would be helpful if more clients understood the complexity of regulations within the banking industry. Regulations are ever-changing and constantly increasing. Like many local, state, and national regulations, the parameters are often set by folks who are regulating something they’ve never done. That means they can be blind to the impact of their decisions; there are unintended implications. Simply put, we often enjoy the delicious meal in front of us, but we have absolutely no idea what it took to get it to the plate – banking is no different.

Nelson Powell resides in Clinton, North Carolina with his wife and daughter. He works closely with his teammate Gloria Heath to provide comprehensive solutions for their agriculture and commercial clients. Powell’s lending portfolio includes clients throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.

The First Bank and Trust Company agriculture lending division offers financing to expand farm operations, real estate and improvements, purchase equipment, livestock and operating lines of credit. In November 2022, First Bank and Trust company was recognized as the nation’s fourth largest agricultural lending portfolio among ag banks and the 30th largest agricultural lender among all U.S. commercial banks.

Powell leads the efforts in First Bank and Trust Company of Virginia’s newest location in Clinton, North Carolina, which opened as a non-branch bank office in June. With the opening of the full-service office in Lillington, North Carolina in December of 2022, the branch became the bank’s second full-service location in North Carolina and 26th full-service location across Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina. The addition of the Clinton, North Carolina office marks the bank’s fourth location in North Carolina, and the Bank’s ninth loan office, totaling more than 30 locations throughout First Bank and Trust Company’s footprint.

To learn more or contact Powell, visit Branch Locations & Hours | First Bank & Trust Company.

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