Ken Poteet, CEO and chairman of Sterling Bank

On March 1, Sterling Bank will celebrate the grand opening of its Clayton branch and its third location overall. It’s an exciting time for the bank, according to CEO and chairman Ken Poteet. “We’re not a virtual bank,” Poteet says. “I like to say we’re a real one. I do believe in the structural impact of having a bricks-and-mortar commitment.” During the grand opening, an art piece from Sotheby’s auction house will be unveiled, he says. “A little hint: There’s only four in the world, and Warren Buffett owns the first one. I couldn’t believe that I ran across it, and it fits perfectly with the Sterling name and culture.” Poteet also notes that, as a part of their Sofa Series Soiree, Erin Bode and Brian Owens will give an intimate performance at the event.

Sterling Bank was chartered on Oct. 19, 2004, in Poplar Bluff, Mo. Poteet points out that the bank reached profitability by its third full month of operation, and by May 2007, it had reached $100 million in assets. “We have been a high performer since day No. 1. It’s a different story to tell as we have a different business model,” he says. “We are more of a private banking solution focused on high-end commercial and high-net-worth individuals, and we primarily deal in low- to moderate-income housing tax credit lending all over the country. These housing developments are funded by federal and state credits, and then high-net-worth individuals buy the credits to offset their tax liability. That, in turn, funds the development so people within 60 percent of the median income or less can afford the rent. It’s a great synergy between providing affordable housing, while at the same time, providing a product for high-net-worth individuals to buy.”

And at Sterling Bank, the culture is paramont, Poteet explains. “It’s a performance-based-culture—there’s no question about it,” he says. “It’s not OK to just be OK. Sterling Bank is one of the top five  banks out of 320 in the state and one of the top 100 banks in the nation. We’ve had increased earnings every year. We surround ourselves with people who are the best at what they do. We don’t mass-advertise—we are very selective with our exposure.”

And that desire to be the best also is reflected in Sterling Bank’s facilities. “The first facility that we built (in Poplar Bluff) was recognized as one of the top six architectural designs in the country for a community bank by Independent Banker magazine,” Poteet says. “And the facility here in Clayton emulates that same retro look. We significantly modified our new location. It was close to being a teardown, and now you won’t see another building like it in Clayton. I believe the structural impact draws customers in, and then they see the quality and how that carries over to the employees, who are self-motivated, engaged and knowledgeable. Just as important, they recognize and remember clients when they come back.”

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