Point guard to point man rising business star brian lamb is out to elevate tampa bay’s economy electricity in costa rica current


He’s a regional president of one of the nation’s larger banks. He sits on scores of boards, including the Tampa Bay Partnership and Enterprise Florida, and will soon chair the Florida Bankers Association. Most notable, he chairs the influential board of trustees of his beloved alma mater: the University of South Florida. He’s a graduate whose time there was highlighted by a successful run in the ’90s as a star point guard and captain of the Bulls basketball team.

Lamb counts some influential local business leaders as mentors and friends. He has carved out an admirable block of charitable work. He has become a go-to person for leadership and reason when it comes to economic development — even helming the Tampa Bay Partnership during its full-scale reinvention from regional marketing to political advocacy group.

Lamb grew up in rural Gadsden County near Tallahassee. His father, Eugene Lamb Jr., is a retired public school teacher and basketball coach who once picked tobacco on area farms. Deloris, his mother, was an administrator with the Florida Department of Corrections.

Brian played basketball early and well, even joining his dad when he coached local games and listening in on halftime locker room sessions rich in game strategy and inspirational words. Eugene Lamb says he and his wife made it a point to spend lots of time with their son and daughter (now working for a major insurance company in Jacksonville). As big as sports was to their athletic son, school came first.

"She said other students would be working and Brian was talking to them," his father recalls. "I asked her about his class work and was told he had turned it in 15 minutes before the others. I asked what grades he was getting and she said, ‘All A’s.’ "

But it was basketball that earned Lamb the spotlight and the opportunity to lead. He ranks among the university’s best players in history. Nearly 20 years later, at the business hall of fame this past spring, Lamb’s introduction included mention of his USF team, down by a point, beating a nationally ranked Florida State team at the buzzer — thanks to the two free throws of a cool-headed Lamb.

John Ramil, a USF grad and later CEO of TECO Energy, the parent of Tampa Electric, took an early liking to Lamb. Ramil remembers Lamb as well grounded, with a passion and willingness to listen. "He’s got all the makings of a great leader and great business person," Ramil says.

Again, he rose swiftly. Just 13 years out of USF, at 34, Lamb was named Fifth Third‘s regional president. Based in downtown Tampa, he is responsible for hundreds of employees and building the bank’s business across all of Central and North Florida.

He also lauds a core of senior Tampa Bay business leaders, many with USF roots, for their support and friendship. Among them: Ramil, who also chaired USF’s board of trustees, and Tampa car dealer turned USF philanthropist Frank Morsani, who inspired Lamb’s philanthropy. At Raymond James Financial, executive Dennis Zank was Lamb’s USF mentor. And USF basketball fan and Outback Steakhouse founder Chris Sullivan shared his business acumen.

Lamb is "relentless" in his efforts to elevate the Tampa Bay region, says Judy Genshaft, USF president for the past 16 years. His advocacy was "essential" in key projects ranging from the new downtown USF Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute to the new housing village on the main Tampa campus.

He met his wife, Paulette, through a college classmate at USF. They married in 2012 and have two daughters. Ava, 2, can now say, "Let’s go Lightning," and even hold up a Bulls sign. Cenai, 15, is a stepdaughter who Lamb notes proudly is an A student and an accomplished high school and club volleyball player.

One way Lamb chooses to encourage diversity is to mentor minority students at USF. He started helping students not long after he graduated, and despite a lean paycheck set up a modest scholarship to help students pay for fees and books. Though his schedule is busier than ever, Lamb still mentors when he can.

Fiercely loyal to Fifth Third, Lamb acknowledges the possibility that he may get a call some day from the headquarters in Cincinnati to take on another task elsewhere. Relocation is a common step for regional bank executives to climb the corporate ladder. It’s also a big reason why so many area bankers — once natural leaders in the regional economy — now play secondary roles in places like Tampa Bay. They move on before they can set down deep roots.

That’s not at all the case, so far, with Lamb. Still, he says if Fifth Third‘s bosses feel he can be more useful elsewhere, then he would most likely honor that call to duty. Right now, he says, he’s committed to growing his bank in Florida — an important state and the largest in Fifth Third‘s 10-state territory.