Dr. W. Craig Esrael
CEO of the Year 2013 Winner
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Name: Dr. W. Craig Esrael
Company: First South Financial
Address: 6471 Stage Road, Suite 200, Bartlett, TN 38134
Services provided: Full-service banking institution, providing everything from checking accounts to mortgages and more
Number of employees: 105
How long with company: 30 years as CEO.
Education: B.B.A.; M.B.A., Finance, University of Wisconsin. M.S., Operations Management, University of Arkansas. Ph.D., Administrative Leadership, Vanderbilt University.
Accomplishments: Turned around a failing credit union and led it into financial success over a 30-year career and counting. Today, First South Financial serves the employees of University of Memphis, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, NSA Mid-South, along with residents regardless of where they work in nine counties in the Mid-South area. First South Financial is consistently recognized by independent rating organizations as one of the financially strongest credit unions in the nation. First South Financial has 15 branches and offers a wide range of services including student loans. Consistently posts high Net Promoter Scores in surveys.
Professional Awards: Named Executive of the Year, Memphis Business Journal. First CEO ever inducted into the Tennessee Credit Union Hall of Fame. First South Financial was the Bergengren Award recipient in 2002 and has been recognized with the Dora Maxwell Social Responsibility Award, the Louise Herring Philosophy in Action Award, and numerous CUNA Diamond and CUES Golden Mirror Awards.
Professional certifications/memberships: Chairman, PSCU Board of Directors. Member, CUNA World Leadership Development Committee, CUES Executive Committee, and Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions Task Force on Credit Unions. Board Member, Tennessee Financial Literacy Commission.
Civic responsibilities/causes: Chairman, WKNO. Immediate Past Chair, Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce. Board Member, St. Francis Hospital-Bartlett. Member, University of Memphis Advisory Board.
Family/PERSONAL information: Lives with his wife in Cordova. They have 3 children and one granddaughter. Enjoys the outdoors including hunting, fishing, running, and canoeing.
What makes a good CEO: “Someone who has the courage to make the hard choices, who sees change as an opportunity. A good CEO surrounds himself with trustworthy, talented experts and then gets out of their way.”