Jim O’Malley, TalentRISE Partner, recently completed a senior executive-level search for Urban Partnership Bank (UPB), a U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-insured full service community development financial institution and minority depository institution with $1.4 billion in assets.
Headquartered in Chicago, UPB was established in 2010 with a focus on building vibrant urban neighborhoods and promoting economic and environmental sustainability in distressed and underserved areas of Chicago and Detroit. We spoke with Levoi K. Brown, Chief Banking Officer for Urban Partnership Bank,about his role, the bank’s objectives and how the talent that UPB hires has helped them to achieve such significant growth in just a few short years.
TalentRISE: Can you tell us a bit about your background and your role at the bank?
Brown: I’ve been here since 2010 after working in structured finance for 11 years at GE Capital. That job took me from Chicago, my hometown, to Stamford, Connecticut, to work in the GE investment banking arm. Along the way, I spent time on the affordable housing and originations side of the equation and also in commercial real estate. In 2009, I started my MBA studies at University of Chicago and, midway through business school, I thought I’d get back intoinvestment banking or capital markets. But few opportunities felt right in terms of traction for me at that time. Then, I received a call from a recruiter who said Bill Farrow, now our President and CEO, wanted to talk to me. After seven interviews, I was sold on the opportunity. That’s not to say I wasn’t initially interested; it’s just that at GE, we were a $90 billion organization in real estate and here our asset base is ~ $1 billion. But we’re growing and proving out our business model every day. Our three business units here – the commercial real estate, our business banking group and the non-profit team – comprise about 30 professionals. We’ve currently have 9 branches, including one in Detroit. All in all, we now number 90 professionals across commercial banking and retail. My role on the talent front, from a people perspective, is to work with our really talented HR team to hire the heads of individual units – basically all the directors – to be sure we secure great talent who will lead the bank going forward.
TalentRISE: How did you connect with TalentRISE?
Brown: TalentRISE had a relationship with our HR group. I needed a new head of retail banking and our HR team suggested that we engage TalentRISE, an up and coming firm. The introductory meeting, when we first met with Jim O’Malley, went well and we essentially scoped the assignment over lunch. I was impressed. After a few email exchanges,we created a profile and shortly thereafter we met five candidates, the first of whom was a great fit. All of them, actually, were viable and people that we might revisit in the future. But Darryl Hendricks, the first candidate, was just the perfect fit and graciously agreed to join us out of retirement from a 35 year impressive career at Citibank where his last position was ten years as Illinois president.
TalentRISE: How was your experience working with TalentRISE?
Brown: Jim and team did a wonderful job of listening. We have an impressive crop of early career bankers here and needed someone with the right stuff to manage that team; someone who has “been there and done that”. Darryl, Jim knew, could come in on day one and be that leader. Jim really understood what we needed and found us Darryl plus several other people who may be good future candidates for other positions. When I learned that my colleague Jennifer Walton who is the Chief Compliance Officer for UPB, was looking for a senior compliance officer, I suggested that she contact Jim, As a result TalentRISE continues to do important work for UPB.
TalentRISE: As you are building UPB, how important is having the right talent in place?
Brown: Here’s our scenario: we lend in communities where most banks don’t. We operate in the urban core and those income earners are at the median or below. These individuals are underserved or unbanked. At UPB, we provide a bridge to basic financial tools, whether getting someone a mortgage or working with a business owner to understand what finance is by, for example, figuring out the right amount of debt that they should carry to optimize their situation. So what we do requires a certain degree of education. In general, this may be the first time someone has applied for bank debt whether to finance a business, buy a car or own a home. This is unique and different.
That’s why we’re targeting heavy hitters in our hiring. Our great business potential is a draw. In only two to three years of lending experience, we’ve already committed over $200 million in commercial lending. But attracting great people also helps. Sixty-five percent of our team has undergraduate degrees; 25-30% have graduate level degrees. The schools represented among this highly educated population include University of Chicago, Northwestern, Notre Dame, University of Michigan and others. In addition, diverse workplace histories and diverse skills and backgrounds amount to an incredible team. Having an impressive workplace like ours attracts others with the same kind of intellectual curiosity.
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