Cheryl Hollingsworth welcomes challenges and shatters expectations in the process. As a leader in banking, Cheryl meets life head-on and lets it take her to unexpected places.
Hometown: Queens, New York
Education: Luther College
Current Position: Team Leader, Retail Banking
Whether it is applying for jobs traditionally reserved for male applicants or becoming the first African-American contestant in the Miss America pageant, Cheryl has never let a closed door keep her out. When Atlantic Capital started in 2007, they needed a leader to take on the challenge of building their retail banking team. Her 40+ years of banking experience, determination and poise positioned her as the perfect woman for the job.
Meet Cheryl Hollingsworth: she’s a woman and she leads.
How did you get started in your career?
I graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa and started looking for jobs. A newspaper ad caught my eye that listed “male” as its first requirement. I didn’t let that stop me. I applied for the job and was made an offer by the company. The job entailed a three-year management training program in the financial industry that gave me a well-rounded skill set including collections and account management. My career path eventually took me back to New York before ultimately settling in Atlanta many years later.
How did you end up at Atlantic Capital?
I joined Atlantic Capital when the bank was just opening and looking to build a retail banking team. I knew that my previous experience and work ethic would be a great fit. Building a team from scratch had its risks, but the challenge excited me. It’s been fantastic to witness the bank blossom and grow since its inception, and it’s been rewarding to know that I played a part in that.
Tell us about a typical day.
I help oversee all customer interactions in the Atlanta retail bank. It’s a privilege to help clients reach their financial goals. It’s gratifying to know all of my customers on a level that is more than just their name and account status. I assist our clients with their checking and savings accounts, personal loans, foreign currency transactions, wires and many other services. Providing high touch customer service is my top priority.
What does it mean to be a leader for your team?
I’ve always thought it was important to mentor and assist others to reach their full potential. As a team leader, I get to help my team move forward in their careers. I don’t want to be an obstacle to anyone’s growth. Rather, I’ve discovered great joy in assisting them in the process.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Being from New York, it was quite a transition moving to a small town in Iowa to attend a Lutheran College. In the spirit of embracing new things, I entered a beauty pageant and won Miss Iowa. The first question the media asked me after winning was, “How does it feel to be the first African American in the Miss America Pageant?” I said, “I didn’t know I was!” Even though I was still just me, everyone suddenly wanted to know my opinion on everything. It took a little getting used to. When I was told I had to prepare for the state level of competition, I was shocked. I was a part of the Miss America USO tour group to Vietnam in 1971, and will always treasure those memories.
What do you like to do in your free time?
This might sound a bit unconventional, but I love woodworking. I like being creative with my hands. Soon after I got married, I built my own cocktail table and end tables without any help. I learned the skillset from my father who was a carpenter by trade.
In addition to woodworking, I love to cook foods influenced by my childhood in Jamaica, a Queens neighborhood of New York. One of my favorite things to cook is lamb. In college, I ordered lamb from a local butcher. He was so excited someone finally wanted a cut of lamb that he charged me next to nothing! I love that my interests continue to take me down paths that surprise people and bring them joy.
Who inspires you?
My mother. When I went to college, my mother decided she’d go back to school as well. She was in her fifties when she earned three masters degrees and became one of the first women ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. She is now a retired minister.
She never stopped encouraging me—and everyone—to pursue more. She still encourages and inspires me today.
What advice would you give to women starting their careers?
Keep an open mind. You might not go down conventional paths, but always be respectful along the way. I have always strived to value people and build healthy relationships in both my professional and personal spheres. It’s important to me to understand what my customers do so I can better support and appreciate them. We are better partners when we understand each other. Be conscious of ways you can mentor and assist others to reach their full potential.
In short, I would say: value people.
Cheryl Hollingsworth listens, respects, and serves her colleagues and customers. She is an advocate of professional development and seeks out opportunities for growth without being afraid of the obstacles that might present themselves along the way. Because women like Cheryl take the lead, Atlantic Capital is able to help clients bank in the right direction.