Bank Innovation Josh Rowland

Lead Bank CEO: Innovation is the future for community banking

The leader of a Kansas City bank is also a leader in industry innovation.

In early March, Josh Rowland spoke at the Bank Innovation conference in San Francisco. Rowland, CEO of Lead Bank, used the opportunity to share his vision with attendees.

Rowland’s message at the conference was that banks must rethink what the banking landscape looks like. Rowland maintains that there is a misguided belief that innovation can only exist at the big-bank level.

Josh Rowland Lead Bank CEO
Josh Rowland, Lead Bank CEO

“Big banks, they don’t really have a burning desire to innovate because as long as they have their existing client base, which is in the trillions of dollars, the hunger … the sense of urgency is not there,” said Rowland. “It’s why banks have been complacent about things, about a variety of risks that they take on.”

Combating that, community banks with assets in the millions must find ways to cost-effectively show the same level of value as the big banks, according to Rowland.

Lead Bank is illustrating value through a partnership with INV Fintech, a startup accelerator seeking to fund companies that can work within the community banking industry. In that partnership, Lead Bank initially agreed to pilot two companies in 2018: Gold Bean and Finspace.

Gold Bean is a company that transforms small savers into educated investors, while Finspace is a secure document-sharing and analysis company that enables businesses seeking bank credit to exchange necessary documents in a more efficient and secure manner.

The two pilots lead to four pilots, demonstrating Lead Bank’s commitment to innovation and landing Rowland on Bank Innovation’s 2018 list of 10 Most Innovative CEOs in banking.

“In the course of one year, we’re going to launch four fintech products into the market; two of them are going to serve a national clientele,” Rowland said. “I think, again, the reason why I was named is because for that kind of effort and that kind of productivity … we’re a unique bank in this country.”

Rowland credits much of the Lead Bank’s success to his team, who work creatively to re-think the community banking experience. Coming away from the Bank Innovation conference, Rowland has a renewed sense of optimism.

“There’s such a range of innovations happening, and what we’re doing is relevant, and we are participating in a real financial innovation economy,” said Rowland. “That’s what I took back to our team — that we are relevant, that we can stay relevant and our energy is really focused in the right way.”

Lead Bank is the reincarnation of Missouri’s Garden City Bank following the Great Recession. Lead Bank has three branches in Kansas City.