Risky Business

Story by Kaitlin Motley
Photo by Alistair Tutton

- Marc Maun
- CEO, Bank of Kansas City
- Company Profile: Bank of Kansas City, a division of BOK Financial, is a financial institution offering commercial and consumer banking, investment and trust services, mortgage services and an electronic transfer network.

Marc Maun knew establishing Bank of Kansas City wouldn’t be a simple career move when he accepted the CEO position in 2006. “I was the most at risk,” he says, because while most of his soon-to-be staff already had networks established in Kansas City, Maun was moving in from Oklahoma, where he had managed another division of BOK Financial for 21 years.

“The challenge was to start up a business,” Maun says. “We didn’t have a significant operation [in Kansas City], and we didn’t acquire anyone. I was very up front in telling people the situation: We aren’t well-known, but if you want to build something where you can look back and say, ‘We took this from nothing to something significant,’ this is the place to do it. It attracts a certain type of person.”

A person with entrepreneurial spirit, which Maun has himself. He valued the opportunity to create a distinct brand and company culture for Bank of Kansas City. BOK Financial’s existing strength was a plus right out of the gate, he says: In 1991, the bank had $2 billion in assets. Today, it’s $26 billion.

“Of the $24 billion in growth, only $4 billion of the assets were obtained through acquisitions,” Maun says. “The other $20 billion was organic growth. This says we know not only how to obtain customers but how to retain them.”
In Maun’s Bank of Kansas City, customer relationships are approached broadly.
“We don’t care which line of business a customer starts with,” he says. “We want our sales reps to promote the bank as a whole. We identify need as a best way to introduce ourselves to that particular client. Managing that has been one of the greatest challenges.”

But that challenge has led Maun and his staff to success by molding a self-starter culture. “We started small—we didn’t even have an exterior sign for the first two-and-a-half years,” he says. “We relied on the strength of our people. The great advantage of starting from scratch is everyone who works here wants to work here. They knew we were a startup, and they saw an entrepreneurial opportunity.”

Being a startup also helped the bank to weather the recession. “Everybody, regardless of the market, wants to sell the bank,” he says. “Before the recession, [we were already taking the approach that] people don’t know who we are, so we need them to test us. We had to think, ‘What service will they let us try out to see if we do what we say we will?’”

What they found was that as loan growth slowed, fee-based banking was growing. As a result, “After five years, we were ahead of where we expected but didn’t get there how we thought we would,” Maun says.

Now, the entrepreneurial team at Bank of Kansas City continues its mission for growth, its own culture paralleling something Maun identifies as a distinguishing characteristic of Kansas City overall. “What we have found in Kansas City is how open this city is to new businesses and people who come from many places,” he says. “I found it extremely easy to get involved. People are willing to listen to people they don’t know; it’s a collaboration among peers. They’re willing and hungry to listen to new ideas.”

Staying on top of tech
In the digital age, technology has become critical to the success of banks. Bank of Kansas City’s small-business structure enables it to adapt quickly to new technological developments. “Smaller banks adapt quickly and can bring products to market quickly,” says Marc Maun. But that adaptation can only happen if the bank is knowledgeable about new developments and trends in the first place. Maun says mobile technology, websites and applications are working well for the bank on the consumer side, and on the business side, he has more electronic deposit opportunities. As far as keeping up with what’s hot, “We stay in touch through our customers,” he says.

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