On a typical business day, Lori Bailey’s desk is neatly blanketed with fresh stacks of mortgage and commercial applications, meticulously stretching from one end of her L-shaped desk to the other like a model of a small city containing a skyline of white skyscrapers. Arriving at work before her peers (and her competitors), she drinks high octane coffee and begins what is almost sure to be a 12 hour work day. During the day, Lori will receive two to five more loan applications, field calls from realtors, title companies and closing agents; all of which she will call back before the sun sets. Lori’s reputation for thoroughness, efficiency and capability has spread like wildfire in the Middle Keys and as one of the leading lenders in Monroe County, First State Bank of the Florida Keys’ secret weapon is no longer under wraps.
As one of the bank’s Vice Presidents and leading Lending Officers, successful mother, extremely active in local organizations and fitness freak – it’s hard to believe Lori has been in banking for over 24 years, but her success as a lender and as a banker arrived by no accident. Like many success stories, Lori began her banking career at the ground floor, working her way up from part-time teller to Vice President of one the strongest standing institutions in the state of Florida.
“I’ve worked in this industry for a long time,” Bailey explains with a modest tone. “But working for a bank that is locally owned and operated gives you a bigger purpose. You get to see where your charitable dollars go and who it benefits. I love that feeling.”
Lori is quick to deflect accolades and compliments for her quick success in the Keys.
She credits much of her success to First State Bank’s strong financial positioning in Monroe County, during such a volatile time for many other institutions.
“When the market dipped, most people knew we were the only locally owned bank left in Monroe County,” says Lori. “But what people didn’t realize, was how strong we were financially. We did not take nor need government bailouts. And the foresight of our board stirred us away from the high risk loans that so many other banks were lured into.”
But make no mistake, from her superiors to those who work with Lori, her successes all point to a lender who strives for relationships over deals.
“She is a great person to work with.” says Marathon Branch Manager, Britt Myers. “Lori makes everyone around her work harder and smarter. Most of all, she connects with her clients on a personal level…she lives and eats where they eat. Because of this, I’ve seen Lori immerse herself into a business to understand their needs, just as I’ve seen her take a young, nervous couple under her wing to help them buy their first home.”
Lori Bailey has lived in the Keys for over four years, yet her active service in organizations like Rotary, BPW and the Board of Realtors suggests her blood was converted from a cold-native Michigan blue to a rich, Conch-red many more years ago.
Growing up in Goetzville, Michigan, Bailey attended Davenport College of Business in Grand Rapids and eventually spent 13 years in downtown Chicago. However, once her daughters, Ashley and Emily, entered adulthood, Lori ventured south to what is now her permanent home.
“I came to the Keys right before Hurricane Wilma,” Bailey says. “And even though I was a newcomer, I was able to be part of a rebuilding process and people don’t forget that. I learned a lot about the character and resilience of my neighbors during that time and I knew I wanted to be a part of this place for a long time.”