BANK ON IT: Karis McDonald, Commercial Credit Analyst

By Madeline Martin on Friday, March 31, 2023

Name: Karis McDonald  |  Age: 25  |  Hometown: Hot Springs  |  College: Arkansas State University | Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies | Job Title: Commercial Credit Analyst |  Employer: First Horizon Bank

Why did you choose a career in this field?

After a few months in my first full-time job as a teller, I was recruited to the commercial lending department as an assistant. I didn’t know a thing about personal or business loans when I started, so I had to dive into the basics to set a good foundation for myself. I caught on quickly to how loans are structured and documented, but I wanted to know the “why” behind credit decision making. That led me to work towards a credit career, starting with my current role underwriting commercial loans.

Did you always plan to go this route?

Not at all. I wanted to avoid any degree or career path that required math. I never imagined myself as an underwriter, but thankfully, First Horizon offered many training and development courses so I could learn on the job. I’ve completed "Accounting for Bankers" and the American Bankers Association certificate program for business and commercial lending. Both investments have filled the knowledge gap in the mathematical area I avoided so I can be successful in this career.

How did getting your bachelor's degree prepare you for this role?

I started college studying broadcast journalism, then switched to communications my sophomore year. Researching communication theories and learning why people communicate the way they do were my favorite parts of my education. I believe the best advantage of this degree is that the skills gained are applicable in any industry. Critical thinking, research and interpersonal communication skills are invaluable in any role. I believe my ability to connect and communicate with others made me stand out as a valuable employee in building and maintaining banking relationships.

Who is your financial role model?

I owe everything I’ve accomplished to my commercial lending team at First Horizon. They saw potential in me from the beginning and have continuously invested in my growth. If I could name one person who inspired me to start my career on the credit side of lending, that would be Miranda Wooddy. Her work ethic, attention to detail and insightful analyses are still an inspiration as I continue to grow in my career.

What natural abilities should someone have to succeed in this field?

I believe the best natural ability to have is self-motivation—taking initiative.

What is a common misconception about your job?

That banking is a one-track career path. In my three years, I’ve already worked in retail as a teller, an administrative position as a loan assistant, and now I’ve moved to underwriting. There are many opportunities for internal movement within the banking industry, and the skills gained can be built upon and applied in any role.