goBeyondProfit CEO Interviews: Heath Fountain, CEO of Colony Bank


Friday, December 8th, 2023

Colony Bank and its CEO Heath Fountain were recently awarded the goBeyondProfit Champion Award for their commitment to a larger purpose beyond the bottom line. In our latest CEO interview with Colony Bank CEO, Heath Fountain, he clearly articulates not only the role that community banks play in improving lives but also offers practical ways to tie daily tasks and customer interactions back to the company purpose.

Founded in 1975, Colony Bank has grown to nearly 40 offices throughout Georgia, 500 team member, $3 billion in assets, and maintained their commitment as a community bank to those they serve.

More Than Just a Paycheck

I think you’ve seen people really wanting more out of life. What is this all about? The pandemic gave time for people to really do some soul-searching, and I think that’s another reason why it’s important for us to give back and to make sure we’re about something more than just profit and we’re about something more than the bottom line.

It’s an important selling point for us when we’re engaging with prospective team members; we’re telling them that their job is more than just a paycheck and more than just us achieving certain goals.

As a bank, we’re really important to people’s lives, we’re the grease that keeps the economy moving. We insert ourselves into the lives of our customers. And so we need to be sure we’re explaining to our team members how important that is and what our customers are able to achieve because we’re able to understand what their goals are and help fulfill a need they have for capital or payments, whatever it may be to achieve a goal.

As an industry we haven’t done a great job of helping connect people back to this larger purpose, It’s more important to the younger generation than my generation and generations before me. They want to be a part of something bigger, and we really offer that in community banking and here at Colony.

Understanding Leads to Meaningful Investment

“We don’t want to just write a check and walk away” says Heath Fountain. “We want to be investing in the things that our team members support, that our customers support. Really, a lot of our communities depend on community banks like us and others to really support organizations in their community. The foundation of the community banking system is about giving back and it’s certainly what we try to do here at Colony Bank.”

Colony Bank Financial Literary Program

We see situations everyday where customers just didn’t understand and didn’t have a good foundation in financial literacy, and they got themselves in a bad financial situation. It’s a real problem in this country. It’s a real problem in the state. And it’s probably a bigger problem in rural communities than it is maybe in larger communities.

Financial literacy is not taught well in schools. It’s not taught in the home a lot. And so, we saw this big void that needed filling. We feel like that’s a real purpose for us because we’re in the finance business. We want to help people in that area in any way we can.

That’s why we partnered with the Dave Ramsey Organization to provide financial literacy. I think we’re in about 24 schools right now. We’ve done this for a few years, and we’ve impacted over 5,000 students. Our goal really is to give them a foundation in basic personal finance before they get themselves in a situation to do damage.

The earlier you start, the better, because these students are going off to college, they’re going to start getting job offers, they’re going to get greater freedom, and we want to make sure that they have a good foundation and can make good, solid financial decisions.

Financial literacy will benefit them the rest of their life and if they don’t get it, it could hinder them for the rest of their lives.

Colony Bank Leadership Academy

Colony Leadership Academy is a youth leadership program for high school juniors and seniors. We take about 40-50 students each year and we put them through a year-long leadership program that consists of four weekends where they hear about what’s going on in business, industry, healthcare, tourism, agriculture, military.

We partner with the UGA’s Fanning Institute of Leadership Development and provide leadership training. They’re learning about different industries. They’re learning about career opportunities. They’re getting to meet other youth from across the state. It’s really a phenomenal program.

You often hear people say, “Oh, what’s the future going to be? The young people today.” But I’ll tell you, I’ve spent some time with them and if the youth in this country are like these young people, the future’s really bright.

Investing in Rural Hospitals and Schools

What I really like about programs like Georgia HEART and Georgia GOAL is they take potential tax dollars and instead of filtering them through our state government they direct resources right to where they can be best used. In particular, the Georgia HEART program is for rural hospitals. Healthcare delivery is a challenge everywhere but especially in our rural communities.

In rural communities you’ve seen investment pull back, so this is an opportunity for us to really help where most of our team members live and where most of our customers live. We try to give back to the participating hospitals throughout our footprint so that they can have some direct investment in things that they can do that will help healthcare delivery in their communities.

I’ve also seen the impact that the money from the GOAL Scholarship has had on the schools here in Albany, Georgia, and I know from talking to others the similar impacts in schools across Georgia. It’s really providing scholarship opportunities for people that would not have the opportunity to attend a college preparatory school.

So, this is a really great opportunity for Colony Bank. Through these two programs, we support schools and hospitals throughout our footprint which benefits our customers and our team members.