De Novo Spotlight: Minority Depository Institution Genesis Bank
Genesis Bank, a de novo bank, formed in August 2021, in the midst of the pandemic. Based in Newport Beach, Calif., Genesis Bank is one of just two multi-racial minority depository institutions (MDIs) in the U.S.
Genesis Bank became a member of FHLBank San Francisco in December 2021. Relationship Manager Mona Tavss joined Genesis Bank Founding Chairman & CEO Stephen H. Gordon for a conversation about his new bank’s mission of providing banking services to historically “underbanked” communities and what’s inspired him to blaze a new path in the wake of a global pandemic.
Q: How long have you been in the financial services industry?
A: I got my start in the financial services industry more than 35 years ago as a partner at Sandler O’Neill, a New York-based investment banking firm that spun out of Bear Sterns. During my years on the 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center, I specialized in advising banks on issues such as strategic planning, capital and liquidity management, balance sheet management and restructuring, asset and liability management, and the enhancement of shareholder value. Since then, I have founded and led several banks. Prior to Genesis Bank, I served as Founding Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, and President of Opus Bank; Founding Chairman and CEO of Commercial Capital Bank and its savings and loan holding company, Commercial Capital Bancorp, Inc; and Chairman and CEO of Fremont Investment and Loan and its holding company, Fremont General Corporation.
Q: What was the idea behind the creation of Genesis Bank?
A: We applied for our bank charter in June 2020 and launched Genesis Bank in August 2021, just as our nation was in the midst of navigating economic challenges not experienced in generations. I believe moments like this are precisely when banks must step up to comprehensively lead an economic turnaround and renew their commitment to consistently back the entrepreneurs, business owners, and real estate investors who make a difference every day in communities throughout our country. I saw the need for a new bank to serve small and midsized commercial businesses, as well as income property real estate investors and owners throughout Southern California. As one of only two diverse, multi-racial MDIs, out of approximately 5,000 banks in the entire U.S., Genesis Bank is proud to support the traditionally underserved and overlooked minority business owners and family-owned businesses who so proudly reflect the foundation of our economy. The pandemic brought to the surface an even greater need to serve these minority-owned and family-owned businesses that have, for far too long, been over-looked and left behind by the traditional banking system.
During this time, we also witnessed an acute behavioral shift away from the use of traditional bank branches. As people have transitioned their daily lives in this ever-evolving environment, banking clients embraced technology and became accustomed to conducting their banking activities digitally. As a direct result, during the planning phase for Genesis, we invested our time and resources in setting up our core banking platform and technology solutions in an anticipatory and forward-thinking way. Genesis Bank’s proprietary technology solutions reflect the changing landscape of banking, where incredible bankers are supported by innovative products, tools, and services that are delivered digitally in a manner that is intuitive, timely, and efficient, while also being safe, secure, and reliable.
While our local and national economies are still reopening, business owners, and companies are, by necessity, creatively and entrepreneurially reimagining their futures. At Genesis – which, by definition, is 'an origin', 'a creation', 'a new beginning' – we are inspired to be as unique and highly impactful as our clients and partners.
Q: Genesis Bank is not the first bank you've founded. Can you share with me what inspires you to create and merge banks/institutions?
A: As I mentioned, Genesis Bank was founded at a time many would consider an era of crisis. Similarly, when I launched Opus Bank in September 2010, the country was coming out of the last economic recession. I truly believe that the banking industry needs to step up in times like these to lead our economy out of crisis. By creating a new institution, unencumbered by legacy portfolio problems, outdated technology, or ongoing regulatory and compliance issues, I have been able to start fresh.
Throughout my career I’ve been inspired to do something to make a difference and make an impact on the banking system – as not just a banker or a CEO, but as an entrepreneur. Most banks and bankers target entrepreneurs as clients yet have never been one themselves. I have. I have bought many banks, started banks, always had significant amounts of my own capital at risk, taken my banks public, sold my banks – I like building an idea into a great company. So, unlike many in our industry, I can literally put myself in the shoes of business owners to help them grow and thrive. It drives me every day.
Q: Genesis is a unique choice for a bank name. How did you choose it?
A: The name Genesis originates from the Book of Genesis, thereby providing a deep historical meaning. Genesis, by definition, is ‘a new beginning’, ‘birth’, or ‘creation’, which resonates deeply with me. Emerging from the COVID-19 Pandemic, we launched at a critically important time, different than any other, blazing a new path forward to our clients and our local economies. Therefore, the Bank represents a new beginning, birth, and growth of a uniquely different organization with a forward-thinking mindset.
In keeping with that theme, the logo mark stems from its historical roots, showcasing a modern, abstract “Tree of Life”. It represents fertility and new birth -- from seed, to tree, to fruit. Its circular shape signifies the circle of life, and the brand’s totality and wholeness. The abstract and contemporary mark presents a strong foundation or “roots” for the Bank. Genesis’ core is unbridled from the burdens of traditional banking systems, creating a dynamic and innovative experience for its clients.
Q: What is Genesis Bank’s value proposition, and what are your main products and services?
A: In a mostly outdated industry, Genesis Bank is created out of a socio-economic need. Our purpose and commitment is to provide access to our groundbreaking financial solutions in order to grow diverse community businesses. Our promise to our clients and to the community is to put strength behind our words as we are intentional with our actions. We hold ourselves to the highest standard paired with a proactive leadership position in the current and future banking landscape. We believe banks should not just respond to but LEAD the economy and our communities.
Genesis Bank's products, services, and solutions primarily include traditional commercial business, Small Business Administration, income property, and owner-occupied commercial real estate (industrial, retail, office) loan and deposit products, as well as treasury management services and solutions. Additionally, Genesis can also provide our clients with fiduciary banking, escrow, and section 1031 exchange services.
The Bank is powered by GenTecksm, a combination of best-in-class technologies, which are tightly integrated to give clients a seamless, digital first, and transparent experience featuring end-to-end straight through processing to access lending, depository, and cash management solutions.
Genesis focuses on serving the banking needs of small to mid-sized businesses and owners and investors of income-producing multifamily and commercial real estate, located primarily in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.
Q: Genesis Bank is located in Orange County, Calif., was there a client demand for your services in this geography?
A: Yes, in our target market of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, the second most populated region in the US, there definitely is a demand for what we are offering – in fact the affinity for Genesis has been even more than I anticipated. Although I’m thrilled to say that we’ve done over $200 million worth of business for our clients since we opened our doors, what I am not terribly thrilled about is the over $400 million of business we’ve had to turn away because of our highly regulated status as a new financial institution, specifically our regulatory volume and concentration limitations. Because of this, we made the unprecedented decision to go back to the regulators with an amended business plan to increase our budgets and raise a second round of capital, in order to further our impact to the communities we serve.
Most individuals may look at the areas we serve in Southern California and think that these areas are not predominately minority. However, the reason Genesis has roots in Orange County and the other surrounding markets, and the reason we will serve in these areas is due to the increase in minority populations in these regions since 2013. Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside and San Bernardino have historically ranged anywhere from 60-75% majority-minority. Minority-owned businesses in these regions make up a majority of the organizations in these counties as well, yet a large portion of these populations have proven to be underbanked.
We don’t think of the demand in our markets as purely a demand for our services as a financial institution. We view this demand from a holistic perspective. Our services as a bank are vital to our success, of course, but what has proven to be even more vital is the commitment to financial education and the deployment of capital into the communities we serve. In order to service our clients to the best of our ability, we want to help prepare them to become a client, and therefore we have created the Genesis Bank Institute for Entrepreneurship, a business accelerator and aggregator platform, in addition to the Genesis for Good Foundation, a 501(c)(3) public charity. Both of these verticals are responsible for serving, educating, and deploying capital into our highly diverse communities and businesses. By doing this, we service the demand from multiple angles: educating the community, investing in the community, and capitalizing the community. We cannot fully support and address the issues we are trying to address if we do not start at the roots.
Q: Genesis Bank is a designated MDI (Minority Depository institution). How can (or why should) another institution partner with you?
A: Throughout my entire career, I’ve never viewed or judged anyone that worked with me by the color of their skin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. This is evident in the diverse makeup at all the prior institutions I’ve led and across all levels of the organizations. Instead, I’ve always aspired to hire the best talent. In launching Genesis Bank, diversity embodies who we are, and is represented by our status as an MDI. As I touched on above, of the almost 5,000 banks in the U.S., only 143 of us are designated as an MDI and Genesis is only the second diverse, multi-racial MDI in the U.S. As part of our MDI focus, we have a deep commitment to serving our diverse, multi-cultural communities, which represent the majority of our target markets. As minority populations continue to grow in Southern California, they remain a larger proportion of unbanked households, which is largely attributable to a lack of financial literacy and access to fair and transparent banking services.
Our MDI designation is deeply rooted and aligns with the collective professional experiences, personal backgrounds, and commitment to community service shared across all levels of the Bank, from the board and executive management team down through the entire organization. As an MDI, we look forward to leading by example, having an impact, and making a difference.
How Partnerships Support MDIs
Access to grants, equity investments, deposits, lending partnerships, and technology support enables MDIs, such as Genesis Bank, to serve more clients and to have a greater impact on the community. Collaboration among MDIs, or between MDIs and non-MDI financial institutions, can result in sound and profitable lending and investments that meet the needs of underserved communities. These partnerships enable MDIs to increase the ability to acquire and support current technology, conserve capital for other strategic business opportunities, and, more generally, improve the quality and reduce the costs of products and services. Institutions engaging in such collaboration and partnerships may receive Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) consideration for these activities.
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