“Everybody has the same playbook,” declares Ken Poteet, chairman, CEO and founder of M1 Bank. “But not everybody has the same culture. The culture, and the relationships that form because of it, are what drive and maintain success.”
After leaving Sterling Bank, which he founded in 2004, Poteet determined that he simply “wasn’t finished.” Although Sterling Bank enjoyed incredible success under his leadership, Poteet left wanting to establish a new, independent bank that would more fully realize his original ambitions.
“This time, I wanted to create a bank that would be more mission- and purpose-driven,” he shares. Nearly two years later, Poteet is accomplishing just that with M1 Bank. Formed earlier this year, M1 Bank offers clients, who range from businesses to individuals and families, a personalized and boutique banking experience. “We’re relationship-focused,” states Poteet. “We really know the people we serve, and not just from a transactional standpoint. When a particular client has a need, we understand their background and financial situation, and are able to have a dialogue about how to accomplish their goals.”
That attentiveness fuels M1 Bank’s work on both national and local levels. The bank boasts a particular specialty in affordable housing and renewable energy, two sectors in which Poteet is highly experienced. During his three-plus decades in the industry, he has partnered with developers and syndicators to finance projects worth more than $3 billion across 30 states.
Poteet believes that fostering relationships and meeting financial needs on a national scale empowers M1 Bank to be a stronger steward of the local community. He, along with a team that includes wife Stephanie Bahn-Poteet and sons Corey Poteet and McLane Poteet, envisions M1 Bank as a “bank on a mission.” That mission involves a deep investment in St. Louis and includes a commitment to reinvest 10 percent of its profits back into the community.
M1 Bank is already an active supporter of various charities and nonprofit organizations around the area. In August, the bank sponsored Laura’s Run 4 Kids, an event benefiting The Little Bit Foundation, which partners with schools to promote positive change amongst children living in poverty. And in November, M1 Bank will serve as a sponsor for the Top Pantry Chef cook-off, whose proceeds will fund the Jewish Family and Children’s Service’s Harvey Kornblum Jewish Food Pantry. In addition, the Poteets are also longtime advocates for The Kaufman Fund, a volunteer-run nonprofit that assists St. Louis-area veterans.
More than a decade ago, Poteet was introduced by his wife to Brian Owens, a Ferguson-born musician and performer. After the events that rocked his hometown in 2014, Owens launched LIFE Arts, a nonprofit organization that gives youth a platform to express themselves and build confidence through music and mentorship. Without a permanent space, Owens partnered with local arts and educational institutions like Maryville University, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and The Sheldon to run its music, performance and songwriting programs.
All that changed, however, when Bahn-Poteet came across a church for sale in the city. She knew that Owens was itching to open his own campus and thought the church would be an ideal fit. “So, we decided to buy the church for him,” she explains.
In early September, she and her husband stood outside that church on 501 N. Hills Dr. and deeded the property title to Owens, on behalf of LIFE Arts. Once open, the new facility will become known as the M1 for Life Academy of the Arts. The campus will include a theater, a cultural arts center and a tech innovation space. There are more exciting beginnings on the horizon for M1 Bank, as well. On Sept. 24, the bank debuted a brand-new branch in Clayton and will celebrate its official grand opening on Oct. 16. Another branch in Des Peres is slated to open this winter. And finally, the bank has a contract in place to renovate and redevelop a site in downtown Clayton that will eventually become the M1 Bank headquarters.
In the meantime, customers who do business with M1 Bank know that they’re not dealing with a cookie-cutter bank. “The customers who have a relationship with us know that their dollars and what they’re investing in is part of a mission, a purpose,” adds Poteet. “Our clients understand the power of a culture driven by mission and purpose.”
“There aren’t many businesses that are completely transparent – that you know the purpose behind everything that they do,” shares Poteet. Thankfully for clients, and for the St. Louis community, M1 Bank is such an institution.
M1 Bank, various locations, 314-721-2265, m1bank.net