By Cara Roberts Murez
Two years ago, Kansas City, Mo.-headquartered nbkc moved into a 105,000-square-foot renovated space in the city’s urban core. Its old headquarters was a traditional bank building; its new one is industrial and chic with an interactive teller machine just inside the door, but no staffed teller lines or drive-thru lanes as one might expect to see at a bank.
It is form that follows function for an outside-the-box banking culture. “It wasn’t ever our goal to set out and say we want to be different than everybody else. I think the true awakening for our company is when we moved into our new headquarters,” nbkc President and CEO Brian Unruh said.
“Even though we didn’t feel like traditional bankers, we probably acted more like it in that setting,” Unruh continued. “When we finally designed this space, it just kind of felt like home for our employees and kind of shed that final, maybe, albatross of the past. We got to act like who we are a little more.”
That meant being more employee-centric, Unruh said, and creating a culture that made nbkc a place where people want to work, including people who might never before have envisioned themselves working for a bank.
Jen Gulvik, chief marketing officer, joined nbkc about a year ago after working in brand development in various industries. “Financial services in general is not an industry that is perceived as being one with great creative potential,” Gulvik said. “A lot of people in the marketing and creative fields perceive it as where creativity goes to die.”
Gulvik learned of the opportunity at nbkc through a banking friend and watched the bank’s clever marketing videos (one directed to potential customers and another to potential employees), which is where she saw the possibilities.
“What we do is serious, but if we can portray that we don’t have to take ourselves seriously all the time while we’re doing serious work, that’s the kind of customer profile that I want to attract out there,” Unruh explained.
On the employee page of the bank’s website, the bank shares peoples’ hobbies instead of their credentials. “They’re not just saying they want to be different and progressive and be consumer-oriented,” Gulvik said. “We are really doing those things and trying to build an ecosystem of like-minded companies, brands, fintechs, people, employees that share that same vision.”
Employee perks include employee-organized clubs focused on beer, wine or crafts; arcade games on every floor; and a putting green, billiards and shuffleboard all inside the building. “We have attracted a lot of non-bankers with this approach,” Unruh said. “Time’s only going to tell if it’s the right strategy.”
For nbkc overall, Unruh foresees significant asset growth, particularly over the next five years, possibly putting nbkc in the $2 billion range. The bank is structured to be a bigger bank, and it has the management and talent on board to do that, Unruh said. He thinks they’ll get there by doing “the same thing we’re doing exactly right now. I’ll call it organic, but it’s an organic/partnership approach.”