Since Southwest Bancorp first entered the Wichita market nine years ago, Patrick Gearhart has been there.
He started working in Wichita when the Stillwater, Okla.-based bank holding company set up a loan production office here. Then he helped establish its first Wichita branch, which at the time was called SNB Bank of Wichita.
Now, after a couple of acquisitions — South Hutchinson-based Bank of Kansas in 2007 and First National Bank of Anthony, after it failed in June 2009 — and access to a state bank charter, the company does business as Bank of Kansas.
Gearhart, 43, is its Wichita division president, the title he's held since 2009. He's in charge of 15 employees and two of the $341 million-asset bank's eight offices in Kansas.
One of six children — all Oklahoma State graduates — Gearhart was born in Omaha and moved to Stillwater before kindergarten.
It was a given, he said, that he'd attend OSU, given the familial and community connections.
"It's about as close as a given gets," Gearhart said, laughing.
And it was because of attending OSU that Gearhart ended up where he did.
Halfway through college he took a job with Stillwater National Bank — which is also owned by Southwest Bancorp — and worked in its office in the student union at OSU.
He's been with the bank nearly 21 years.
What other careers did you consider prior to banking?
"As a young person, I was interested in careers that varied from medicine to advertising."
What are the things that keep you interested in banking?
"The service-oriented aspect is the part of banking that is the most important to me, having the opportunity to help people realize their business objectives and personal opportunities through leveraging financial services. Also, the economic and analytical challenges of understanding the businesses of the clients you serve to the point of becoming a valued adviser is an ongoing challenge."
What is the least favorite part of your job?
"The economic challenges brought on by the recent recession were exceptionally tough for everyone. It's always difficult to watch your clients suffer through financial hardships and the difficult decisions they often face as a result."
How much personal involvement did you have in the work behind the assumption of the assets of the former First National Bank of Anthony?
"In my capacity as the integration team leader for the Wichita operations, I was highly involved."
What has it meant for the bank with the addition of the FNB facility in west Wichita?
"I consider the acquisition of the former First National Bank of Anthony as a significant milestone in the history of Bank of Kansas," adding that the acquisition gave Bank of Kansas branches in Wichita, Anthony, Harper, Mayfield, Olathe and Overland Park. "It was also a wonderful opportunity to improve the platform from which we are able to serve our clients in Wichita and around the state."
Does BOK still have a strong focus on the medical industry? Why or why not?
"Yes. Our bank has developed a specialty of banking the health care market that goes back over 30 years. From that experience we have gained an expertise and understanding of the health care sector that has evolved into the focus we have today."
How is that business faring in this tough economy?
"The health care industry has and will continue to be an extremely important part of our economy and quality of life. As an industry, they are also facing huge challenges and a great degree of uncertainty regarding how they will deliver care and how government regulation and other factors will continue to impact their business model."
What has been the highlight of your banking career and why?
"Being named the Wichita division president for Bank of Kansas in 2009 and celebrating my 20th anniversary of service to the bank last year. I consider myself quite fortunate."
What keeps you up at night?
"Wondering what the future of our country, our government and our economy holds in store for our children."