“A Benevolent Banker Whose Reputation Towers Above this Current Period of Greed and Bankruptcy and Bailouts”

As the passing of Leo Seal dominates the news today I was reminded of a recent comment left by my friend Steve in reference to Uncle Leo and the old fashioned way Hancock Bank did business in the process generating customer goodwill that will endure for a long time:

….they did more than what is in the article. Uncle Leo got them to goto the emergency operations center and hand out money to people. Nobody had ID’s or any way to prove who they were. The ENTIRE town was flooded. Just sign your name and any info you have and here is your money. NOBODY turned down for ANY reason. You see Uncle Leo gets it. They came with money in the trunks of their cars. Big money. But no security guards or guns etc. They knew us and trusted us. They made us feel like human beings.

Such was indeed the measure of the man and his bank. Uncle Leo’s generosity did not escape the editorial board at the Sun Herald either as today’s editorial makes clear:

Generations of Mississippians benefited from the life of Leo W. Seal Jr.

Generations of Mississippians yet unborn will benefit from his legacy.

Seal, a native and lifelong resident of Bay St. Louis, died Tuesday at the age of 84. His achievements may never be fully itemized.

He was a benevolent banker whose reputation towers above this current period of greed and bankruptcy and bailouts.

While recognized and greatly admired for his generosity, his philanthropy was often performed anonymously.

• “He funded education for literally hundreds of young Mississippians, most of whom never knew who their benefactor was,” said Hancock Holding Co. CEO John M. Hairston.

• “He never sought gratitude and preferred to do things quietly, like sending an unsolicited $100,000 check to Harrison County Library system after Hurricane Katrina, which was never made public,” said George Thatcher, a friend and fellow banker from Gulfport.

What he did do in the public spotlight was help guide Hancock Bank from a $14 million operation with three branches in two Mississippi counties to a $7 billion financial services institution with 164 locations in four states.

Nor was there anything shy about his devotion to his alma mater, Mississippi State University, or his appreciation of his fellow veterans of World War II.

In so many ways, we have lost a champion who gave us so much to celebrate and cherish.

“His best attribute was trying to make the Coast a better place,” said Roland Weeks, retired Sun Herald publisher who worked with Seal on many committees and boards. “Leo was enlightened and led us in directions that served everyone, as opposed to a few. Leo was a man of the Coast, back when cities were protecting their own turf. Leo saw the need for togetherness and regional thinking in the public and private sectors.”

Today’s Sun Herald is packed with such praise. And there will doubtless be more in the days ahead.

As we acknowledge his life, we extend our deepest sympathy to his family and loved ones for their loss.

2 thoughts on ““A Benevolent Banker Whose Reputation Towers Above this Current Period of Greed and Bankruptcy and Bailouts””

  1. Very nice coverage SOP. Uncle Leo would be proud.

    At the core of his business model was providing for the community a strong economic institution that instilled confidence in the community. He knew banking better than any of these high powered New York bankers. He believed the economic vitality of the community depended upon the people belief in a strong banking system with ready access to their money when they needed it.

    His was a model which was more than a slogan. When he choose to write off the service fee’s of all his impacted customers they will never know it cost the bank 3 or 4 million dollars as per their annual report. But they will never forget not being charged overdraft fees or late fee’s on their mortgages. He did it because it was the smart business decision. Contrast that with the now bankrupt acquisition lending institution Countrywide’s abuse of Coastal homeowners and you can see the real power of his business model.

    Of the millions given out post Katrina to the locals on the basis of a signature without ID I was told only a few hundred thousand dollars was lost. This would make it the cheapest new customer attraction program in the industry and the best customer loyality program ever instituted.

    He didn’t hand out the money to be generous. He did so because providing people with financial security was the business. If only insurance companies could develope business models which obtain such a high level of development.

    One last comment for nowdy. When I worked with the youth court I received a call one day from none other than Uncle Leo. He asked me about my family relations in terms of being related to Norton Haas and my cousin Omer. He told me he thought highly of those two men and then sprung on me a question about one of my clients father. I assured him the man in question was the only father I had on my caseload that was a man of charater and a strong parent.

    He next did something which surprises me to this day. He told me the man had come to him(this was an poor immigrant from Africa) and asked his help in getting his daughter out of the girls training school and placed in Piney Woods. Needless to say I thought it was a farfetched idea. Uncle Leo told me he would get the girl in Piney Woods and i told him Thanks. Not once did I consider that I wasn’t suppose to discuss my kids with anyone outside the Court system or that it would require the Judges order to get her out of jail and into one of the best schools in our state.

    I recieved a call later that day from Piney Woods requesting I send the girl to their school as soon as we could make arrangements. Such is the power of Leo Seals recommendation. I was really impressed that Leo was only concerned about the charater of the man and his strength of parenthood. I can assure you she was the first person ever to be accepted into any school while serving time in Columbia. I can only imagine that there are more stories like this about Leo Seal than there is time left in our lifes to tell them.

  2. Thank you Steve. You have some good stories friend. Mr Bullstroke was wondering about my sources. One of them is the guy with a major highway named for his grandfather. 😉

    Then again I believe you were also introduced to Mr Bullstroke…..

    sop

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