A: I had an uncle who was a senior officer at the Federal Reserve Bank, and watched his career evolve when we lived outside of Kansas City. But when I graduated with a finance degree from OSU in '86, the banking industry was facing difficult times. I went to work as a bank examiner for the U.S. Treasury's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). For the next four and half years, I — every 30 days — was in and out of Oklahoma banks, from Interstate 35 west. For many, we were the last exam before they were closed by the FDIC for insufficient capital. It was the best banking training I could I have, almost like going to graduate school. And I made countless connections. For the next several years, I decided to take what I learned in compliance into the private sector — first as a management team member for Stifel Nicolaus investment banking and then with American Bank Systems, which provided software and consulting services to banks.
Q: And your transition to conventional banking?
A: Patrick Rooney, working chairman and chief executive of First National, then ran Charter National Bank on the west side of Penn Square Mall and approached me in 1997 about a vacant vice president's position. I had a lot of respect for Pat — who'd been a banker in Muskogee and also a former OCC examiner out of Tulsa, and jumped at the opportunity to be a full-time banker, with a single organization.
Two years later, we (I owned a small piece) sold to Kansas City-based UMB Bank, but I continued working there five more years, overseeing lending activity in Oklahoma City.
Q: Tell us about your career with First National.
A: Rooney, who's the majority shareholder and acquired the bank in 2002, recruited me in 2004, when we opened our branch on Western. I came on as president, shareholder and member of the board. We have four other branches: a NorthShore office at 10900 Hefner Pointe, which opened in 2011; the original Tonkawa office, which was chartered and opened in 1917; and two branches in Ponca City, one opened in the 1990s and a new branch opened in 2009.
Q: What distinguishes your bank from others?
A: We are a community bank, and like and know our niche in the banking sphere — deposits and lending for commercial customers and professional practices, such as doctors, lawyers and CPAs. We can be responsive and creative in assisting our customers because we know them.
Our Oklahoma City opening in 2004 has allowed our bank to grow and prosper, as we help provide the lending catalyst to advance many worthwhile projects that have contributed to the city's continued renaissance.
We have a saying here — “fewer customers, larger relationships” — and remain lean by design, with only 22 employees in Oklahoma City. Our growth has come from referrals, which is a fabulous thing.
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