Strong, positive leadership focused on community as well as growth often propels local businesses to greatness, and such is the case with Citizens Bank & Trust.

At the helm since 2001, President and CEO Greg Littleton has won the Banker’s Cup Award for his service to community and leadership. In addition, Citizens has been named The Ledger’s “Best of the Best” bank for three years in a row.

“Having the opportunity to lead such a great organization as CBT is really an honor and a privilege,” says Littleton, a native of Winter Haven who received his associate’s degree from Polk State College. “Our bank has been fortunate to have been recognized for the good work we try to do in the community on several occasions. That recognition and the good reputation our bank enjoys is all because of the hardworking and dedicated family of bankers at CBT.”

Littleton says he’s proud of the team members who work at Citizens, and when you consider their previous experience — Senior Vice President Bonnie Parker and Executive Vice President Weymon Snuggs both joined Citizens from other banks, along with others — you can see why.

“It’s all full circle,” he says, almost sounding like George Jenkins of Publix fame. “We have a fine group of bankers, they do an incredible job in the community and our bank gets recognized because of them.”

Parker, who joined Citizens several years ago, said she likes working with Littleton because he “provides the perfect mix of advice and mentorship, without being overbearing. He trusts his employees to do what is best for the bank and the customers, and lets his management team run their departments as they best see fit. This helps create confident and amiable leaders in our company, and that leadership style helps develop a pleasant work environment for all of the employees, and happy employees lead to happy customers.

Citizens Bank was founded in Frostproof in 1920 by Latt Maxcy, whose family ran it for more than 50 years. Four grandchildren — Latt Wilson, Cindy Henry, Jinx Chaney and Clay Wilson — remain involved even now as members of the board of directors.

In 2004, Citizens bought American Bank & Trust, then changed the name to Citizens Bank & Trust.

The bank is described as a “full-service financial institution providing personal and commercial banking deposit and loan products, along with Trust & Investment services.”

It employs more than 150 people at branches in Lakeland, Winter Haven, Auburndale, Bartow, Dundee, Frostproof (where the first branch is still in use and considered a community treasure), Fort Meade, Haines City and Lake Wales.

Parker says Littleton brings a “strong business acumen” that helps the bank move forward.

“He has the background and experience to be very well-versed in the financial management aspect of the business world. He also has personal traits that make him a great leader in our company and the community, including being selfless, caring, compassionate and humble,” she says.

Some things are out of his control, things he could change if he were a superhero with power.

“Regulation has gotten so tedious and expensive for banks, particularly community banks, that it makes it much more difficult for us to serve the needs of our communities,” Littleton says. “If some of that burden could go away, or at least be lightened, we could better serve the credit needs of our customers and would have more money to support good causes.”

Good causes are near and dear to the hearts of those who work at Citizens, who have given a combined 10,000 hours a year of volunteer work.

“Giving back to the community is something we take very seriously,” Littleton says. “It’s not just something we talk about or say, but we try to live it every day.

“Along with supporting the community through volunteerism, I also believe we play a vital role in the economics of the county,” he says. “We work hard to meet the needs of Polk County businesses and families. This year alone, we will originate more than $100 million in new loans here in Polk County.”

It’s that Polk County focus — and having worked with Littleton in community organizations — that caught Parker’s attention and prompted her to change banks.

“I was looking for an opportunity to work for a company whose focus was primarily doing business in the Polk County area, and had a community-involvement philosophy aligned with mine. As a private banker and wealth manager, my clients want to bank and invest at a company where the staff knows them personally, cares about their family and business, and cares about the community in which they live,” Parker says. “Citizens Bank & Trust satisfies all of those needs, so it was a perfect fit for me.”

Parker says she is especially proud of an event and a cause that Citizens helps with each year:

  • CommunityFest in Winter Haven. The event “is wonderful because it gives kids the opportunity to have a fun day in Central Park with free activities, complete with prizes, entertainment, games and even balloon hats! The kids and parents are so appreciative that the event costs nothing for the children to have a fun day.”
  • Support for the Polk Education Foundation. Each bank department raises money for a common cause, which supports teachers and students throughout the Polk County School District. “We take great pride in raising money for education.”

“Littleton believes in education, and has served on the Polk State College board of directors for years. He’s also fun and has a good sense of humor,” Parker says.

“He also appreciates the skills and diversity that others bring to the table,” she says. “He is very smart, and is good at developing solutions to tough issues.”

Littleton says he’s learned a lot from his father, his greatest role model.

“From a very young age he instilled in me the need to work hard and do my best,” Littleton says. “He also showed me every day what he meant by that.“

Littleton proves every day that he learned from his father and leads by example, making Citizens Bank & Trust the “Best Bank” in Polk County.