A veteran banker recently concluded a career serving customers in Wilkes and adjoining counties.
Wilkes native Matthew Daye was city executive of Mount Airy-based Surrey Bank & Trust in North Wilkesboro and a vice president of its holding company, Surrey Bancorp, when he retired June 30. His experiences reflect much of the story of banking locally in the last four decades.
Daye, 64, was raised and still lives in Traphill. Unsure of what to do after graduating from North Wilkes High School in 1976, he got a seasonal job at Stone Mountain State Park due to his interest in hunting and fishing.
Daye was working in the park one day when a woman appeared, frantically saying her son had fallen at a waterfall. Daye and others responded but the teenager was dead.
“That experience made me take stock of things — and what I wanted for a career. I realized that I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go into something with wildlife,” he said.
Partly because of his strong math skills, Daye’s father, Bill Daye, arranged for him to talk with Joe Harris, president of Elkin-based Mutual Federal Savings & Loan, about a possible career in banking.
“Mutual Federal had just started a consumer loan division and Joe hired me to work there — and I did that for about a year and a half…. Joe then asked me to go to Dobson to work for their credit officer, Van Coe, in commercial lending,” said Daye.
“So, I ran a drive-through window teller window and made consumer loans. I was interested in business loans and Van helped me learn this.”
Daye completed the N.C. School of Banking at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1984 and 1985.
Daye was still with Mutual Federal when Paul Holbrook, Yadkin Valley Bank city executive, offered him a job at Yadkin Valley’s new branch bank on D Street, North Wilkesboro, around 1986.
“Paul had found out that I had commercial loan experience and he said he needed someone to analyze the finances of business loan applicants. This was before they had computer programs for doing that.”
Daye accepted the job offer and worked at Yadkin Valley in North Wilkesboro through a period of tremendous growth. “There were days when business loan applicants were lined up while waiting in the lobby.”
Soon after Ron Shoemaker, Larry Farthing and others started Wilkes National Bank in 1992, Farthing asked Daye if he wanted to help start and manage a new Wilkes National Bank branch on N.C. 18 North in North Wilkesboro. Daye accepted and the new branch opened in June 1994.
Daye said this allowed him to gain knowledge about commercial lending underwriting from Greg Edwards, then manager of the main branch of Wilkes National Bank in Wilkesboro.
Daye remained at the Wilkesboro-based bank after it was acquired by Integrity Financial Corp. (parent company of Catawba Valley Bank) in 2002. Wilkes National was called Northwestern by then, reviving the name of a Wilkes-based institution that grew to become North Carolina’s fourth largest bank.
“Greg called me one day and asked what I thought about starting a bank. A group of us began meeting about it.” This led to creation of Great State Bank in 2008. Daye said that due to financial obligations, he didn’t go to work at Great State because it meant a pay cut.
Later in 2008, Yadkin Valley Bank hired Daye for the commercial loan officer position in North Wilkesboro vacated by Ron Pearson when he joined Great State. Daye stayed there until he retired in October 2015, in time to enjoy most of deer season.
In March 2015, Daye left retirement when he accepted the job of managing a Surrey Bank & Trust loan production office in Wilkes with the understanding that he would be city executive of the full-service bank the Mount Airy-based institution planned here. It opened in December 2017.
“I convinced them (Surrey Bank & Trust leaders) to be in downtown North Wilkesboro instead of on U.S. 421. It’s been good for Surrey,” said Daye.
“We’ve run a tight ship and lost no money on loans,” he added. “I can thank Mr. Smoak for that,” he said, referring to the influence of Jim Smoak of Wilkesboro, a director and CEO of Yadkin Valley Bank for many years.
Daye cited the influence of several other bankers, including Joe Harris, Ron Shoemaker, Paul Holbrook, Greg Edwards, Ed Marxen and Joe Johnson at Yadkin Valley and Ted Ashby, president of Surrey Bank & Trust.
He said his greatest pleasure as a banker has been helping people and added that he wants to continue this in retirement, especially by making a difference in the lives of young people. Daye plans to also pursue his passion for music as drummer for the Phillip Boyce Band, which primarily plays classic rock.
Daye has served on the boards of the Wilkes Family YMCA, Ruby Pardue Blackburn Adult Day Care, Communities in Schools, Wilkes Recovery Revolution and the Wilkes Economic Development Corp.
He and his wife, Betty Daye, have three children. Son Matthew and his wife, Carrie, are expecting a child in December. Son Mark and his fiancé, Jenna, are to be married Nov. 7. Daughter Rebekah is married to Nick McGlamery.