Get to Know Darren Tully, 2024 EBL Committee Chair
SVP, Market President, Freedom Bank of Virginia
Tell us about why you became a banker and what has kept you in the industry for the past 12 years.
I started my career working in insurance on Wall Street, in the early days of the Great Recession. I learned a lot about financial analysis and risk modeling in those days, at a time when systemic risk was a major focus in the economy. I eventually moved back to my hometown in Northern Virginia, and while I knew I enjoyed the analytical aspects of working in financial markets, I felt something was missing; I didn’t have a direct relationship with my customers or my community. In banking, I feel like I’ve found the best of both worlds: I can leverage the skillset I’ve developed in finance to be a trusted advisor to my clients, to help businesses grow and to enrich the communities that Freedom Bank serves.
Tell us how you initially became involved with the VBA Emerging Bank Leaders (EBL) and why you decided to champion the group by becoming its chair.
I couldn’t imagine my career today without being rooted in the EBL. When I started in banking, I didn’t know how to be a banker! I looked to others for examples of best practices, how to engage with our customers in a meaningful way, and how to give back to our communities. To me, what makes the EBL great are the members: we are to each other networking opportunities, business development, mentorships, and lifelong friendships…it represents all the best aspects of being a banker.
You’ve been engaged with the EBL group in many ways over the years, including developing the next generation of talent through a Careers in Banking presentation for the VBA Internship Program participants. What is your favorite part about speaking to younger generations about the opportunities available in the banking industry?
What I liked best about speaking to the students was helping them understand that there’s something for everyone to have a long and prosperous career in the banking industry. Whether you’re introverted/extroverted, detail-oriented, gregarious… there is an opportunity for you to fulfill a role at your bank and flourish in it. The fact that we get to do this in a job where we can also see the meaningful impact we have on our community makes it all the more rewarding.
Who or what inspires you? What resources, tools or techniques do you use when you need new ideas or to be reenergized?
I typically find inspiration from three sources: 1) great leaders: when a leader has a clear vision and mission, that’s easy for me to internalize and I find myself mimicking their behaviors. 2) my clients: I’m inspired by entrepreneurs and the bravado it takes to risk it all on a dream – it inspires me to rise to their level of energy and deliver for them. And 3) my peer bankers: I’m a pretty competitive person, so when I see other banks or bankers doing great things it pushes me to try to do the same.
Your bank is actively involved with the VBA’s government relations efforts. Talk to us about your participation in these events and the benefits that you’ve seen firsthand.
I’m fortunate to live in the Northern VA area, but often we take for granted our proximity to our legislators in Washington. Attending the VBA/ABA Washington Summit and VBA State Legislative Meetings was a humbling experience and helped me understand how our elected representatives listen to our concerns and work to better our industry.
What is your favorite VBA or EBL memory?
Definitely completing the bank simulation course in year three of the Virginia Bankers School of Bank Management. I loved the competition and applying what we learned in a real-time setting.
With the new year upon us, what recommendations do you have for EBL members looking to engage with the association in 2024?
Attend as many formal and informal events as possible to get to know other bankers in your area, including Burgers with Bruce and any regional networking opportunities.
Finally, what does a successful 2024 look like for you?
Riding out this high-inflation period unscathed, seeing Freedom Bank continue to grow and reach new customers, all while enjoying the ride as I watch my two young kids continue to grow up!
“Lightning round” questions:
- I would most like to have lunch with (dead or alive): Cal Ripken, Jr. I idolized him as a kid playing baseball and it would be a huge honor to meet the real-life Iron Man.
- Favorite place in VA and why? Getting a sandwich from The Market at Bellair in Charlottesville.
- Best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Exercise in the mornings! You’ll only be tired for a little bit, and you’ll feel better for the rest of the day.
- Best part of your job? Connecting with entrepreneurs in creative ways to help them grow their businesses.
- What is the best book or podcast you’ve read or listened to in these last few months? I’m a huge geography nerd… Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall. Using maps, the author looks at how the physical characteristics of countries affect their strengths and weaknesses and helps explain how leaders, economies, armies, and people behave.