When finance professor George Morgan suggested some years ago that two of his former students get to know one another, little did he know that the CEOs would later lead a merger to reconstruct something from their past: “a great Virginia-based regional bank,” like the ones they once worked for.
Mike Clarke (FIN ’83), CEO of Access National Corporation, and John Asbury (FIN ’87), president and CEO of Union Bankshares Corporation, didn’t cross paths as students at Virginia Tech. In fact, they first met just a couple of years ago, at a meeting of bank CEOs in Richmond, recalls Asbury. It was by chance, Clarke says, that they sat next to each other at the group’s dinner.
The completion of the merger, with Union acquiring Access, was announced in February. The combined company will have total assets of $16.8 billion, deposits of $12.2 billion, and loans of $11.9 billion.
A shared background
Their career arcs diverged — Clarke spent much of his career at the bank he started in Northern Virginia, Asbury moved across time zones and institutional environments — but the men, both Virginia natives, have a lot in common.
Asbury notes that their banks will get a head start on managing the merger process, due to the mutual trust that has already developed between their leadership teams — “Mike and I are not just now getting to know one another.”
“They’re Hokies with finance backgrounds and connections to our department,” Morgan says.“They had similar views about the importance of doing solid credit analysis and running a high-quality bank. It seemed like a natural alliance.”
Says Clarke: “George recognized that John and I shared many passions. So he pushed me to build a relationship with John. George knew that if we worked together enough, we would find a way to reinvigorate student interest in our profession. After all, a great many of the CEOs and leaders of Virginia’s banks are Pamplin alumni.”
Read more about Clarke and Asbury on the following pages.
– Sookhan Ho