Rita Lowman – Chief Operating Officer – C1 Bank – Women in Corporate America

Gravitas9398RTAs a leader in Florida’s banking industry, Rita Lowman has carved out a trailblazing 35-year career that shows no signs of slowing down.

In an industry typically defined by dollars and cents, Lowman has cultivated a successful career built on personal relationships, hard work and the confidence in her abilities as a woman and banker. As one of only two women on the board of directors of the Florida Bankers Association, Lowman’s impressive career has managed dozens of banking mergers and transitions, teams of 1,000 employees and $6 billion in assets. But this small town Georgia lady has never forgotten where she came from, and the lessons she learned climbing the ladder of success.

Lowman was raised in a middle-class working family in Georgia, and enjoyed exploring her theatrical side growing up, appearing in several local plays in the hometown theater and competed in local pagents. After graduating from Columbus State University with degrees in communications and business, Lowman started laying the foundation to her future success by taking strategic risks.

Within a few years, she was named the youngest marketing director for a small bank in Columbus, an impressive position at the time that was featured in the local paper. After the birth of her oldest son, she returned from maternity leave in 11 days, something unheard of at the time for working mothers.

“I wouldn’t recommend that for anyone,” she says chuckling. “It was a very small department and I was fortunate to have my mother help care for my son until I was able to put him in daycare.”

Gravitas9335RTFinalLowman later accepted a position with the former NCNB Bank that was based in Charlotte, North Carolina, the second largest banking center in the U.S. outside of New York City. She quickly gained a reputation as the “go to” executive within that company and several other banking institutions, holding positions from Market President to State Administrative Executive. The banking industry was becoming a small niche, once dominant by several big name companies, and Lowman moved with the changes, relocating her family eight times between North Carolina and Florida where she was needed most.

Lowman’s career wasn’t the only one taking off (William, her husband of 43 years, was then a division executive with Kraft Foods based in Chicago). She admits both working parents loved their careers and wanted to continue succeeding up the executive level, but Lowman was faced with a fork-in-the-road decision: join her husband in the Windy City and work for a bank there, or stay in North Carolina and live apart.

In a decision that frankly many couples could not endure, let alone survive, Lowman and her husband agreed to keep their respective busy executive level schedules and manage two households, commuting every weekend with their two sons for seven years._MG_7175RT

“Some people could not have done that, but we were very fortunate and made it work extremely well,” she admits. “We made a decision to keep our careers, and we valued the time we had together as a family. We were together on weekends, either we’d fly to Chicago or my husband came here.”

Lowman was a woman in demand. The self-described Type A personality moved quickly through the whirlwind banking industry changes overseeing or managing at least 19 mergers and acquisitions, including the largest to date with Barnett Bank (bought by NationsBank in 1998). Lowman was at the center of all those historic and somewhat challenging acquisitions that changed the banking landscape forever.

Today, Lowman is one of the top executives at C1 Bank, who is redefining the banking experience for consumers and based in St. Petersburg. It is a small community bank focused on meeting the needs of today’s entrepreneurs and small business owners with commercial lending options. The bank has offices in Miami, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, Miami and Fort Myers. As Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Lowman is proud of the company’s efforts to build true relationships
with customers, not automated, impersonal responses customary at large institutions.

Modest of her astonishing accomplish-ments, Lowman says this is an exciting time in her career to carve out new ideas. However, she is quick to say that every experience taught her new lessons, and she is always grateful for the support and encouragement of mentors throughout her career. She often credits her current CEO Trevor Burgess, long-time banking Florida banking executive Bill Klich and Alex Sink, former president of NationsBank in Florida and one-time gubernatorial candidate for Florida.

“Alex shared with me when I first began working with and for her and said, ‘Stay true to who you are and let your passion shine through.’ I am passionate about banking and the success of not only women in banking but all people who select banking as a career.”

“I am confident in my ability as a strong banker; however I know that you must surround yourself with associates who have your passion, drive, ethics and knowledge,” she once told the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

Her husband retired after 35 years at Kraft Foods and spends time on the family cattle farm in Georgia, where Lowman often joins him on weekends.

During our interview, she chuckles remembering a quote she gave her hometown paper. Lowman was quoted as saying “I want to grow up to become senior vice president with a major commercial bank.”_MG_7235RT

“My husband chuckles and said ‘that’s really funny. You kind of passed that right on by and moved on.’ It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do. It’s all about writing down your goals. Make sure you write them down and set those goals and work towards them. If you truly have an ambition and that is truly your goal with a lot of hard work that goal can become a reality.”


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