To spur growth, Colorado community bank hires from bigger banks

InBankshares is building a management team that would normally be suited to run a bank at least 10 times its size.

The $1.2 billion-asset InBankshares, the Denver-based holding company for InBank, now has three executives from regional banks. The latest of these is Mark Christian, a 35-year banking veteran who last worked as executive vice president of operations and systems for the $41.4 billion-asset PacWest Bancorp. As InBank’s executive vice president and COO, Christian, who joined the company last week, will handle branch administration, strategic planning for information technology, systems conversions and optimization, and mergers.

“As you grow a company, you’ve got to find talented people that have the line of sight and experience to help you [expand],” CEO Ed Francis said in an interview.

Francis worked 16 years at the $34.6 billion-asset Hancock Whitney Corp. in Gulfport, Mississippi, the last two as chief banking officer, responsible for commercial and retail banking operations. Francis then led an investor group that acquired InBank, known at the time as International Bank, in June 2018. At InBankshares, Francis recruited Dan Patten, the executive vice president of finance and corporate development at the $19.7 billion-asset Heartland Financial USA in Dubuque, Iowa, to be chief financial officer in April 2021.  

Mark Christian was most recently executive vice president of operations and systems for PacWest Bancorp. He’s now executive vice president and COO at InBank, and its third executive who comes from a larger regional bank.

That makes Christian InBankshares’ third senior executive with large regional bank experience. And InBank is on its way to catching up to its larger peers — InBankshares completed a $56 million cash-and-stock deal for the $484 million-asset Legacy Bank in Wiley, Colorado, in May.

“By being really good in executing for our customers, we’ll attract other bankers, other teams and other companies that want to join our journey,” Francis said.

For a community bank with outsize ambitions, hiring executives with big-bank resumes makes sense on multiple levels, according to Paul Davis, director of market intelligence for the Memphis, Tennessee-based Strategic Resource Management. 

Executives from bigger banks are going to have experience when it comes to underwriting larger loans and they’re familiar with the compliance expectations for larger institutions. They may also be helpful when it comes to expansion into other product lines and adding delivery channels,” Davis said.

The Los Angeles-based PacWest, where Chritian comes from, has a reputation as an active acquirer. Indeed, PacWest closed 29 deals during Christian’s 23 years there. “Being part of Matt Wagner’s acquisition-focused management team should be helpful as well,” Davis said.

Wagner, PacWest’s CEO since 2000, announced his intention to step down last week. Wagner will resign as CEO on January 1 but remain as PacWest’s executive chairman. 

InBankshares has also been a bank in a hurry the past few years, hiring several teams of commercial lenders, punching above its weight in the Paycheck Protection Program closing nearly 900 PPP loans, and completing the Legacy Bank deal. Francis describes himself as a “hands on” leader who enjoys accompanying his lenders on sales calls, but he recognized the company’s growth required additional management capacity.  

“Mark just solidifies and rounds out the expertise and knowledge on the team and helps us feel really good about our ability to scale the company when those opportunities arise,” Francis said.

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