CrossFirst plans Wichita branch

Former Wichita banking executive Ron Baldwin is bringing his Leawood-based bank to the area, and he has tapped another former local banker to run it.

CrossFirst Bank said Thursday that it hired Steve Peterson as its market president for Wichita. Peterson, who previously worked for the former Bank IV and later for Commerce Bank, was most recently with Stillwater National Bank's operations in Texas.

The $330 million-asset CrossFirst plans to open a full-service branch in Wichita in first quarter of 2012, pending regulatory approval.

Baldwin, who left Intrust Bank as president and chief operating officer in 2005, said finding the right executive to lead the bank in Wichita is the first step to reach that goal.

"In a nutshell, a Wichita boy trained by my old employer, has Commerce experience and is entrepreneurial enough to start from scratch a bank for Stillwater National," Baldwin, CrossFirst's chairman, said Thursday of Peterson. "Wonderful experience with Wichita ties. He's perfect."

The bank is making plans to lease office space in the Country Club Plaza building at 13th and Webb. That office will be a temporary, full-service branch until CrossFirst can find a location for a permanent branch.

"The target (for the permanent branch) would be in the vicinity of 13th and Webb," Baldwin said.

Peterson will initially work out of the bank's headquarters in Leawood. He said he thinks it will be a few months before the bank can open its Wichita office.

Peterson started his banking career in Wichita in 1987 at Bank IV. Between 1991 and 1998 he operated a franchise restaurant with his wife, and rejoined banking as community bank president in Derby for Commerce.

In 2004, he left Commerce for Stillwater National. His job there was to build and open a branch in Austin, Texas. He also helped Stillwater establish a bank in San Antonio.

Peterson said he has known Baldwin since his days at Bank IV. His parents live in Wichita, as well as a sister. His wife's mom lives in Derby.

"It's good to get back to family," Peterson said.

Baldwin was one of three people who founded CrossFirst in October 2007, with $15 million in capital it raised from 200 private investors.

Baldwin thinks that the bank is in a good position to grow business in Wichita. Between contacts he has established in Wichita over 33 years, Peterson's contacts and CrossFirst president and CEO Mike Maddox's contacts, he thinks the bank will be successful here.

"Many of our friends and investors are patiently waiting to bank with us in person," Baldwin said in a news release.