Position: Vice president-Chief lending officer
Company: First American Bank
Family: Wife, Brittney, and two daughters: Caroline, 9, and Lucy, 4
Hometown: Donaldsonville, Louisiana
Education: Marketing and banking degrees from LSU
In the news:
In late November, Nizzo was promoted to vice president-chief lending officer at First American Bank, where he started his career in banking in 2006 as a lending officer.
What was your very first job, how old were you and what was the biggest takeaway from the experience?
The summer before my senior year of high school, I cut grass and did other small maintenance jobs for Ascension Catholic Church in Donaldsonville. I learned then that if you take pride in the work you do, the results will be noticeable to many.
What time do you typically get up on a workday, and what’s your ideal morning routine to get it off to a great start?
Usually around 6 a.m. I don’t like to drink coffee first thing like most. I prefer a protein shake and the paper (The Advocate) to get things started, then on most days I’m bringing the girls to school before making it into the office around 7:45 a.m.
You graduated from LSU with an undergraduate degree in marketing and then earned your graduate degree in banking shortly after joining First American Bank in 2006 as a lending officer. Why did you pursue a career in banking and did you ever consider another career path?
When I graduated from LSU in 2005, the banking industry was booming. My older brother, who is also in banking, was already off to a successful start in his career so I was able to lean on him for advice at that time. I did interview with the Shaw Group for a mid-level IT job as I worked a part time job in the IT department of the Louisiana School for the Deaf while attending LSU. I really wanted the IT job at Shaw and when I didn’t get it due to lack of experience I was pretty bummed out. It turned out to be blessing as it led me to banking.
In late November, you were promoted to chief lending officer. How has your role changed and what has been the most exciting thing about the transition?
My mindset has always been to find ways to continue to build our loan portfolio in the Baton Rouge market and expand our brand here. With this new role, I’m now focused on working with our lenders to do this in all of the markets we serve. I am a very competitive person, which is what has fueled my success. I want to instill that competitive drive into the lenders so that they can produce at the highest level while implementing safe and sound lending practices.
As someone who now oversees 32 lenders across 25 branches in southeast Louisiana, what’s your strategy for keeping your employees engaged with their work every day?
Community banking is “Relationship Banking.” We get to meet so many great individuals who have big financial goals and we play an integral part in helping them achieve those goals. Whether it’s building that dream home, or growing your own business, we have opportunities on a daily basis to be part of something special for that customer. If that doesn’t excite you, you’re in the wrong business. My job is to keep our lenders operating efficiently so that they’re not bogged down with paperwork. I want them out in the communities we serve meeting with customers and developing relationships.
What’s something about your job that might surprise people?
Probably that we still wear a full suit and tie (with jacket) Monday through Thursday, even during the hottest months of the year. This may be considered an “old school” practice nowadays but our bank’s founder, Mr. JB Falgoust, was adamant about continuing this as he felt that dressing like a gentlemen showed the utmost respect to the customers we serve on a daily basis. We also continue to wear an American flag pin on our jacket to honor our veterans and those who serve our great country.
What’s the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome, and how did you do it?
My wife and I lost a child during her second pregnancy, which was by far the toughest thing we’ve had to endure. We leaned on each other and received great support from our family and friends during that time. That support and most importantly our faith in God is what helped us through.
What are your best productivity hacks?
I read the paper early in the morning to stay caught up on what’s going on here locally. That’s my daily news source, I don’t watch much TV at night. While my wife has a Facebook and Instagram page that I can view if needed, I don’t have my own page. It seems to me that it’s a full time job to keep those things up and not something I have time for. I also make a list each morning of what I want to accomplish for the day. Sometimes it seems like a daunting task but if you write it down and prioritize it, more often than not, you will accomplish it.
What’s a leadership skill you’ve learned the hard way?
If you’re going to be a leader, you have to set the right example and sometimes get outside of your comfort zone. The best way to lead is not always the easiest way and sometimes can be very difficult, but you can’t let that stand in the way of doing what’s right.
What are some of your hobbies or favorite things to do in your free time?
Having two active little girls who are very involved in school and athletics doesn’t leave a whole lot of free time for me but when I do have free time, I enjoy fishing, boat riding, playing golf and watching the Tigers and Saints.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in the Capital Region. Where are we going and what do you recommend I order?
French Market Bistro for the chicken addiction sandwich is a great spot, and of course Ruffino’s on Fridays. Get whatever their Friday special is.
What’s one of the smartest purchases you’ve ever made? What’s one of the dumbest?
The smartest purchase requires a lot of thought but I’d probably have to say my boat. They say a man’s best day is when he buys and sells his boat. I haven’t experienced the latter yet and one of my family’s favorite things to do when we have time is go boat riding or fishing. We’ve made so many great memories on that boat already which is what it’s all about. The dumbest purchase is easy, a rainbow vacuum cleaner. My wife might suggest it’s the smartest purchase we’ve ever made but the money we spent on that thing just a year after we were married still haunts me!
What kind of vehicle do you drive and what do you think it says about your personality?
I’ve always driven a truck. Not sure what it says about my personality other than maybe that I enjoy the outdoors.
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
On a professional level, that would be, Mr. JB Falgoust. He interviewed me nearly 13 years ago. I had only been in banking for a year and was inexperienced to say the least, yet in the interview, he asked my suggestions on what we could do to make his bank better. Here was this very prominent and successful business man asking advice from a 22-year-old with one year of banking experience. It blew me away, he could have offered to pay me in peanuts and I was going to work for him. He had that effect on people that I would come to see over the years, that no matter who he met with and what the conversation was about, he had a way of engaging with that person and making them feel as though they were the most important person in the room.
On a personal level, my parents. I watched the example they set for me and my brothers and sister growing up. My dad worked nearly 35 years in a chemical plant with most of those years doing shift work including working nights and weekends. He never complained. My mom was a school teacher for many years (She taught me in 3rd grade … I made all A’s and one B that year—guess whose class I made the B in?). They showed up to every event in my life and were always there to support me. They did things the “right” way and not always the “easy” way and they remain a huge influence in my life.
What is something you are absolutely determined to do in life?
I don’t have anything specific that I feel I need to accomplish. I am determined to make sure that no matter how busy I may be, my faith and my family will always come first. I am determined to watch my girls grow and accomplish things and to be present for those moments as my parents were for me.