In 1979, current CEO and Board Chair, George Gleason (pictured to the left), purchased Bank OZK when he was just 25 years old. At the time, he was an attorney working in the banking industry, and he had a vision for what was known at the time as the Bank of Ozarks. His goal was to strive not to be the biggest in the country, but rather the best bank in the country. Today, the regional bank now has 250 locations from New York City to San Francisco and everywhere in between! In recent years, the bank decided to update its name to Bank OZK to reflect its now varied locations across the country.
Focusing more locally, it's easy to tell how involved Bank OZK is in the St. Petersburg community. From sponsoring the locally famous No Straws campaign to their employees being encouraged to get involved in local organizations, you can see the giving back infrastructure that Bank OZK has created at work. We talked to the Partnership’s new incoming Board Chair & VP Market Leader for Bank OZK, Barclay Harless, about some of the work he does in addition to being on our board and sponsoring our monthly Developer’s Council meetings. One of the organizations he is most passionate about is R’ Club Childcare, Tampa Bay's leading child care provider, for which he serves on the board. Additionally, he is also the Board Chair for CareerSource Pinellas, which connects the local business community to our workforce. In addition to these extracurricular activities to contribute to the community, the bank is very much engaged in moving the needle on equity, home ownership and home affordability in projects designed to improve the communities that Bank OZK serves.
This community-based bank isn’t just well-known for their community involvement either. Money magazine has ranked Bank OZK the Best Bank in the South in 2019 & 2020. Additionally, the bank has received an A- Investment Grade by the Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA) for their experienced management team, well-developed loan underwriting, and risk management policies and practices. While they are strong lenders, they pride themselves on being a safe analytical bank, perfect for today’s economic climate.
After Bank OZK merged with C1 Financial in 2016, they grew their C1 Labs division, a fintech think tank, into what is known as the Innovation Labs today. Bank OZK is very proud of this division, located on 5th Street South in Downtown St. Pete, and their mission to lead the digital transformation of community banking and deliver financial services that positively impact the lives of our customers. They have attracted national attention, being named one of American Banker's Best Fintechs to Work For in 2018, 2019 and 2020; Forbes' World's Best Employers of 2018; and voted Coolest Office Space by Tampa Bay Business Journal. This division became particularly important in today’s post-COVD world. When the PPP loan was first announced, the Innovation Labs turned on a dime to create a system that allowed customers to apply for the loans and the bankers to respond with ways to make their application more solid. If you are interested in learning more about the Innovation Labs, click here.
As you can tell, Bank OZK is a fantastic community bank. With the ability to combine their regional bank power with their local bank feel, along with their smart lending solutions, they are the ideal bank for community leaders and developers with ideas for how to improve their neighborhoods. If you are interested in learning more, please read about all their offerings at www.ozk.com.