Discover Lafayette welcomes Jerry Prejean, newly named Acadiana Market President of IBERIABANK, a division of First Horizon. Jerry brings talent and kindness to all of his interactions with others.
Prejean has 28 years of experience in the world of banking. His most recent position was Senior Vice President and private client group manager of IBERIABANK. Prejean was head of the private banking team since 2002. Though busy in the bank, Prejean still finds time to give back to his community. He has been highly involved in the Boys and Girls Club, AMIkids, Lafayette Central Park, One Acadiana, Ragan Cajun’s Athletic Foundation, Community Foundation of Acadiana, Lafayette Economic Development Authority and United Way of Acadiana.
Prejean’s parents, Joe and Inez Prejean, had limited education and were shaped by the Great Depression. “Because of their lack of education it was really forced on their kids to really focus on getting a good education and breaking the cycle of poverty,” Prejean said. Prejean graduated from Immaculate Heart of Mary in Lafayette, and then went on to major in Finance at USL where he graduated in 1992. His four siblings are also highly educated.
Prejean heard other kids at his school talking about the Boys Club. “It really resonated with me the impact that the organization had on those kids at an early age,” Prejean said. As he got into banking, an opportunity presented itself to serve as a representative on the Boys and Girls Club board. “I really probably got more out of it than the kids got out of it,” Prejean said. He sat on the board for 25 years and recently stepped down in 2019.
Prejean got his start by working full time in retail for the Abdalla family, in college. At 19, he was the full-time manager of Brother’s mall store. “I think I learned more about people and about sales, networking and getting along with people, in that retail environment than in the class room,” Prejean said. He was exposed to dealing with vendors, learned how to manage client complaints, and mastered the general business of retail. He took his people skills from retail and his analytical skills from the classroom and combined them to become the banker he is today.
He started with First National Bank of Lafayette in 1993 (in 1998 became Bank One), and moved to IBERIABANK in 2002 at a time when the bank was growing exponentially under the leadership of Daryl Byrd. His focus was on private banking, which caters to an affluent population. He builds relationships with people who desire only one point of contact for their banking needs. “As the relationship evolves, we start talking investments, estate planning and the transfer of wealth from one generation to the other,” Prejean said.
“I like the fact that as bankers, we can help people formalize their dreams and put a plan in place to help them accomplish those dreams,” It is important for young folks to manage credit card exposure and to avoid credit card debt so as not to impede future opportunities to acquire credit.” Prejean wants everyone to have a chance to acquire their own wealth, in their own ways. “You can easily paint yourself into a corner with too much debt.”
We did note that Jerry Vascocu, former Acadiana Market President, has recently been named as head of the commercial lending division across the company’s twelve state region for the new combined company of First Horizon and IBERIABANK. Vascocu will remain domiciled in Lafayette.
Prejean has dedicated his life to helping children in need. He focused his volunteer work with the Boys and Girls Club and AMIkids. “Early on in working with these kids, I really connected with the kids and really saw them light up when they would have personal connections,” Prejean said. He mentioned how important it is for all kids to have someone see something in them, that they may never see on their own without the kindness of a mentor paying attention to them.
Prejean’s first big commitment to help his community was when he was around 18 years old and volunteered as an assistant coach with Little League T-ball in the Saint Pius area. Though he never played baseball, he knew how to organize and get the kids playing together. He built a large network with many of the parents that brought their kids to play ball and the networking proved to be beneficial.
As Prejean got into banking as a career, he sat on the Boys and Girls Club of Acadiana Board. He helped the organization raise money and raised awareness of the organization to others in Acadiana.
Prejean has been involved with AMIkids since it opened in Acadiana in 2008. It’s a residential facility in Branch (Acadia Parish) with space for up to 36 boys, ages 12 to 17, who have been convicted of minor crimes. It’s a space for young boys to get their lives on track in a low-security facility. “It’s for kids who made a bad choice early on who just need some sense of direction,” Prejean said. Kids learn methods for dealing with others, including anger management tools. Once the kids display positive behavior, they are rewarded with trips to the movies and pizza nights. The program provides an individualized treatment program to each child and has about a 90 percent effectiveness rate (no recommission of a crime). AMIkids has a network of approximately forty facilities across the U. S., and Prejean was recently elected the national board chair of the organization.
Prejean has also served as Chair of Lafayette Economic Development Authority and he was recently chosen to serve as Secretary of One Acadiana. “It’s important that we continue to diversify our economy… my involvement as chair of Lafayette Economic Development Authority really saw the need to help continue to attract businesses here,” Prejean said.
“If any young professional is out there, really get involved and invest in your community,” Prejean said.
We thank Jerry Prejean for his service to our community, both in business and nonprofit endeavors. May others be inspired to follow in his footsteps!