2 min read June 2022 — Studio Bank is a boutique bank that provides organizations, families and individuals with sophisticated financial services. In an interview with Invest:, Co-Founder and Chief Relationship Officer Harry Allen discussed milestones and achievements, strategies to recruit new talent, Studio’s value proposition and financial literacy.
What were the biggest ways in which Studio Bank grew over the past year?
There have been significant milestones in the last year for us. The first, and very significant, is that we graduated from de novo bank status. The first three years for a new bank charter is an intense oversight period by our regulators to make sure we are safe and sound. Our regulators from the FIDC and Tennessee Department of Financial Institutions were on site every six months for our first three years and were pleased with our performance against our business plan. Coming out of de novo status is a significant achievement. There have been 50 new bank charters approved in our country since the Great Recession and only one new bank since 2017 has had stronger growth since inception than Studio Bank. So what we’ve done is quite historic as well. Secondly, we got our branch and HQ2 approved for Williamson County in April. We will be opening our second office, which is around 13,000 square feet, in June of this year.
We have also been chosen as a ‘best place to work in Nashville’ for the fourth year in a row. Before the pandemic, we had fewer than 50 employees, now we are over 80. There has been a lot of growth despite the disruptions and I’m very proud of the fact that we have been able to win the recruitment game in Nashville and provide a wonderful work culture for those on our team. We’ve grown larger than our projections and became a $700 million bank before turning four years old and mostly out of a single branch location. It’s truly remarkable how the community has responded to what we’ve built..
What is the secret to successfully attracting new talent?
Some of it has to do with our philosophy; we believe that people want to be a part of something and work in a place that is larger than their tasks. As a company, we articulate our purpose explicitly and communicate it consistently. Our purpose as a bank is to empower creators; that purpose is fulfilled by our mission to provide meaningful financial resources and human connections that make an impact. It’s a purpose and mission that people want to be a part of.
The second factor is that as a young, fast-growing organization, we present a unique opportunity to build a company together. Folks who are drawn to us are entrepreneurial and understand that there is real potential for opportunities for growth and impact. We may not know exactly what that opportunity will look like three to six years from now but, at the rate we are growing, our team knows this is a place where they can grow as well. For us at Studio, it doesn’t matter how long you stay with us, we take stewardship of your career very seriously and what we can do while you are here to grow as a banker and leader.
What did you see was missing in the industry that caused the genesis of Studio?
The bank that the founding team came from was creative and entrepreneurial. I think that our former bank’s exit, after it was acquired by a regional bank, presented us with an opportunity for a high-tech boutique approach in which bankers provide social and financial capital. Our bankers are natural connectors, we want our clients to meet their next best client through an introduction from their banker. I think that, when serving the entrepreneurial community of creators and business owners, they are thirsty for those human connections as much as they are looking for compelling financial services. Joining us is joining a community, which is a model that does not exist in our market without Studio Bank. Hosting opportunities for our clients to build community among themselves is a key component of our value proposition.
What is the impact of technology in a bank that is aimed toward creators?
We recognized early on that we couldn’t ask our customers to trade off technology for high-touch, personalized service. We invested heavily in this area from the start, understanding that if we were going to build a sophisticated bank that competes with regional and national institutions, we must have a compelling digital experience for our clients. We built the platform without knowing that COVID would come and force the bank to go completely remote for a while. The fact that we built a digital bank that had people wrapped around it, positioned us well during the pandemic.
We use the term creators instead of creatives because what makes humans unique is our ability to create. We can dream up something and make it happen and that includes nonprofit executives who are creating social change, healthcare executives who are creating a more streamlined healthcare system and even parents who want to create a better way of life for their families. We are all creators and, as bankers, we want to enable collaboration and partnerships to make what they’ve imagined real.
What strategies does Studio Bank have regarding financial literacy?
On the consumer side, we have bankers who provide financial literacy training in partnership with other organizations. We have several bankers who are budget coaches with Habitat for Humanity and we had a partnership with Knowledge Bank, which teaches financial literacy to kids. We are piloting a program to provide financial literacy to teachers in our community through two school systems. We look for ways to reach individuals in our community and make sure they understand and are set up for success from a financial stability standpoint.
During the pandemic, we learned a lot about the challenges small businesses were facing. One of the issues that was highlighted was the challenge in our community for small businesses to access capital, particularly those owned by people of color. We partnered with two organizations, one of which is the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee through a fund that was launched by one of our Founders’ Advisory Board members. The other partner is Cummins, Inc., a Fortune 500 company that wanted to invest in Black-owned businesses and wanted to partner with a bank to form a loan program. .
With each of these partners, we put together a guaranteed loan program for Black-owned businesses. Since these are not grants, but loans, it helps the business owners form a relationship with the bank, which was a big issue during the pandemic as many of these entrepreneurs did not have strong contacts within financial institutions. By building these partnerships and relationships, we are addressing some of the challenges that are acute in that demographic. We are trying to be innovative to meet the needs of our community and make sure we are serving them from a position of strength.
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