Avenue builds small biz team

Group being led by exec given key role last fall at CapStar after Sumner purchase

Avenue Bank has set up a division focused on growing its small-business loan portfolio and brought in a former senior vice president from CapStar Bank to lead it.

Mark Brooks' official title at six-year-old Avenue is senior vice president and director of business banking. In that role, he is focusing on businesses with $5 million or less in annual revenue. His team also includes Chris Schlueter and Courtney Williams.

Brooks (pictured) has more than 25 years of experience in the industry and joined CapStar last summer when that bank acquired American Security Bank & Trust. In September, he was named senior vice president of commercial and industrial lending at CapStar but left late last year.

“Mark’s leadership has brought a renewed focus to our commitment to small business owners in our community,” said Kent Cleaver, Avenue's president and COO. “This team brings a high level of financial expertise to business owners, for both business and personal banking.”

Avenue is one of four Nashville-area banks that have taken part in the Small Business Lending Fund, a U.S. Treasury program that has pumped capital into community lenders and incentivized them to make more small-business loans. The bank, which has assets of about $720 million, has grown its loans to small companies by 70 percent since mid-2010.


Also, Avenue recently brought on board three veteran bankers for a number of its other divisions. They are as follows:

• Deborah Hennessee Thomas, a senior vice president and private client banker with more than 25 years of industry experience. She also had been at CapStar, which she joined during its organizational stage in early 2008.

• Commercial real estate relationship manager Tracy Knight, who has come to Avenue from First Southern Mortgage Corp. She has 19 years of experience in CRE lending locally.

• Darryl Williams, a small business and consumer loan credit underwriter. Williams was most recently at Regions Bank and has 18 years of experience.