5 questions with Steve Peterson

05/29/2014 12:00 AM

08/08/2014 10:24 AM

It’s been one week since CrossFirst Bank opened its permanent Wichita office, a $4 million, 15,000-square-foot building near the southwest corner of 13th and Webb.

Since then the bank’s Wichita president, Steve Peterson, has spent a lot of time giving personal tours to customers and shareholders.

That’s OK with Peterson, who was hired in August 2011 to start the Leawood-based bank’s local operations from 2,700 square feet of leased space at Country Club Park next door.

Delays, mostly because of weather, postponed the opening of the building. Officials had hoped to open the new building by the first quarter, which ended March 31.

The building is not to be confused with a branch, Peterson said. The two-story building – designed by GLMV Architecture, built by Crossland Construction and decorated by Cindy Baldwin, wife of bank co-founder Ron Baldwin – includes a 17-foot-tall chandelier, a boardroom, executive suites and a patio overlooking Country Club Park’s lake.

It was important for the $920 million bank to make its mark with the new building.

“Really just to the market, we had to show permanence,” Peterson said.

Q. What does it feel like to finally have a visible home for CrossFirst Bank in Wichita?

A. I know it sounds cliche but it really feels fantastic, because we’re delivering on a promise to our shareholders, customers and friends that we made 2 1/2 years ago when we opened the bank in Wichita.

Q. How does this change business for the bank, having a permanent office?

A. It doesn’t really change our business model. But … we now have drive-through that we didn’t have before, and we have an ATM that we didn’t have before. It has added some tools that allows us to enhance the delivery of our services.

Q. You had earlier expected to add staff because of the new office. Has that process been completed?

A. Yes, we’ve added staff but we’re not finished yet. Before finishing (the new building) we grew to 11 employees, but we only had nine desks there (at the old office). We found a way to make 11 employees at nine desks work. We are in the process of interviewing employees to help us run a larger facility.

Q. What was one thing you learned in this process of helping to plan and construct a building?

A. I think we all learned a new level of adaptability. We had a plan and timetable, and then it rained. We had a plan and a timetable, and then it snowed. I think I could answer the question with one word: adaptability.

Q. How is business at CrossFirst now versus a year ago?

A. Business is very good. We have had year-over-year (mid-May 2013 to mid-May 2014) 70 percent or greater loan growth, and we’ve grown deposits by 70 percent. The growth is great and we want to keep it up, and the credit quality has remained strong. … More importantly it’s been the number of new relationships we’ve built, and I credit the team for that. And that’s the basis for our growth over the next five to 10 years. The relationship growth is where our future is.

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