With nearly four decades in banking and a lifetime in Memphis, Gerre Currie brings deep insight and experience to her role as Community Development Officer for Financial Federal Bank, a position that helps her build financial literacy and generational wealth for underserved residents. She also shares her perspective as Secretary of the Memphis Area Community Reinvestment Act Association, an unprecedented collaboration of area banks dedicated to serving those with low-to-moderate incomes. When she isn’t helping other Memphians fulfill their dreams, this finance-focused foodie enjoys time cooking with her husband of 35 years and trying new restaurants with her granddaughter Jessica. Get to know Gerre Currie, a FACE of Memphis who makes the future brighter wherever she goes.
Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
Born here in Memphis, TN, raised by a single-parent mother and grandmother. I have three brothers and two sisters. We lived in the Glenview Heights area for a while, but we eventually got settled on the outskirts of Orange Mound, and that’s still where the family house is. I spent two years in Asheville, NC – I think Asheville is God’s country – but other than that, Memphis has been home all of my life.
How did you become interested in finance?
I actually just fell into banking. I was with a girlfriend, and she said, “Let’s go to First Tennessee,” and we went and we applied and they gave us the job. I was a single parent myself at that time. It was more a decision based on, “You have to work, so let’s at least do something that is fun that helps you learn some things also.”
As you progressed in the field, did you have female mentors or have the opportunity to serve as one?
I had two really, really, really great mentors. Maxine Ford was at Leader Federal. She was one of the toughest managers I have ever had in my life, but she was always fair. She allowed you an opportunity to tell her why you didn’t agree with any decision that she made, and she allowed you the opportunity to understand why she made the decision. She just made banking fun. Teresa Wright was at Regions Bank. She was never a micromanager. She let you do your job, and she always gave you support. Those are two ladies who seriously impacted my concept of banking, so when I became a manager, I lived by the models and the creeds that they put in me. I think I’ve done fairly well in developing some people along the way.
What role do banks play in community development?
Community development, from a banking standpoint, involves a bank’s obligation and responsibility primarily to ensure that they are doing lending and economic development in areas of the city that may not potentially be their target market. When you are working in community development, whether it’s as a financial institution or nonprofit, 99.44% of the time, your target market is going to be low-lto-moderate incomes, because that’s where you see the most disparity in the city. Those are the individuals and the neighborhoods and communities that really need the spotlight shined on their situations and circumstances.
How does your role as a Community Development Officer shape your perspective on banking as a whole?
You can’t be a part of this city – whether it’s banking, industry, IP, FedEx – and not have a heart for wanting to do something that helps your community. I’ve always been engaged in community organizations that try to drive the trajectory to make it better. This is just a continuation of something I’ve always done.
Have there been particularly memorable projects that inspired you?
One of the most memorable loans that I did here at Financial Federal was for a young lady who had been renting for 10 years. She had an a-ha moment one day and decided she wanted to buy a house, and we literally started from scratch. This was a lady who was a supervisor at a business here in Memphis who had her paycheck going to a Green Dot card. She had never had a conversation with anyone who said, “You need to open an account at a bank.” So I helped her open an account and literally walked her through the process, working with a realtor to help her find a home and get it closed. She came by the bank about two months ago, and I said, “Are you still on track?” She said, “Not only do I have an account, but my children have accounts.” It just changed her life. Those are the intangibles that people don’t see.
How does the Memphis community inspire you?
I’ve seen Memphis come a long way in all of my years of living here and all of my years of being in banking. I don’t think we’ve gotten it right all the time, but I think that when we get it wrong, there’s always, always somebody who’s probably been in the background that steps into the foreground and helps us keep this city moving forward and on track. I get weary when we try to compare ourselves to other cities. For what? Just be what you are. As long as we stay true to Memphis, this city will be okay.
What are some of the things you enjoy doing in your free time?
I am an avid estate sale buyer. I think I’m a frustrated interior decorator. If I’m reading something that says, “This is the color of the month,” I’ll sit in my house and think, “Okay, I can change this room, or I can change that room.” So my house is in a constant state of flux, because that is the one thing I do that relaxes me. My husband has resigned himself to the fact that the house will never, ever be finished. I’m redoing it now.
As a lifelong resident, where do you take visitors to Memphis that you feel represents the city?
I love Bass Pro [Shop at the Pyramid]. It’s just a fun place to go. I’m not a hunter, fisher or anything like that, but my husband loves it, and I can always find something that I probably don’t need. So when we have guests come in from out of town, that would be our first stop. And even though I don’t take them all the time to Graceland, I will at least take them to the Guest House at Graceland so they can see some of the design in there. There’s no way you can live in Whitehaven and not take people in and show them that.
What is your best advice?
I have eight granddaughters. Eight. Granddaughters. I hope that each and every day, they see in me something that makes them keep reaching, keep reading and keep growing. That’s what I always push to them. Keep going.
What three things can you not live without?
My elliptical, books and, out of all the food I love to eat, pasta.
Thank you, Gerre, for sharing with us today, and thank you to Abbey Bratcher for the gorgeous photos!
Want insider tips from financial experts? Read our new Q&A series, “Money Moxie,” in which Reliant Investment Management’s dynamic team of financial experts cuts through all the dizzying fiscal jargon and delivers practical answers. Approachable financial information has never been easier! Click here to read the second article in the series.