Trenton Stafford, market president of Kirkpatrick Bank, first took the direct route to banking and then made a circuitous return to the industry five years later. He’s bullish on Colorado Springs, establishing many connections in the city during the year he and his family have lived here. Recently Stafford took time to talk with the Business Journal in a live interview about his plans for Kirkpatrick Bank and his hopes for the community.
What is your career background?
I got into banking directly out of college. I have a dual degree in finance and commercial bank management from Oklahoma State University — so I was a ready-made banker. I went to work for Bank of Oklahoma and then they bought a number of organizations, and I worked for them in New Mexico, as well as Colorado. My last day with them I was senior vice president of Colorado State Bank & Trust and the lead CRE (commercial real estate) group for Colorado in 2007 in Denver.
The grass is always greener when you’re young, and so after that I went to work for a client — Hunt Development Group of El Paso, Texas — and went back to Albuquerque to open an office for them. We were tasked with large public/private development projects. Then 2008 came and went and our activity on development projects certainly waned and projects in the pipeline slowed down significantly, so I felt like it was a good opportunity — if I was ever going to — to own my own business. So I purchased several small businesses in Westcliffe, Colorado, where my wife Pepper and I owned a second home. And I started an oil-field services company in the Bakken area of North Dakota and Montana. That went extremely well, and we sold that piece of the company in January 2012.
I still had a relationship in the banking world and specifically the leadership at Kirkpatrick — from when I’d worked at Bank of Oklahoma. They were looking for new leadership, and I was excited to re-engage in a community that I felt was small enough that I could connect. I started in October 2012.
What are you involved with in the community?
Pepper and I are big supporters of Pikes Peak United Way — we’re part of the Tocqueville Society, and we’re certainly big supporters of Care & Share [Food Bank for Southern Colorado], Discover Goodwill and Cheyenne Village. Most recently, I became a board member of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. From a cultural perspective, we need to embrace this asset to enhance the quality of life for those who live here. And I’ve been a stronger supporter personally and through the bank of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, and I’m the bank’s representative of their board of governors.
What are Kirkpatrick’s specialties?
We’re a commercial business bank with a private-bank delivery system. We hire people who are empowered to make decisions, and we hope they become key consultants to businesses that are our clients. We are unique in our relationship orientation with people who can make decisions. I’ve never been at a bank with officers who are more involved in the community. They’ve got deep roots in the community. They don’t turn off the lights at 5 p.m. and go home. That’s what makes this business work. That’s what’s important to me — their involvement.
What are your two-year growth plans for the bank?
We’re privately owned by one individual, so our focus is not quarter-over-quarter growth or necessarily year-over-year. However, our current plan includes doubling our assets (by 2017), putting us at just under $1 billion in total assets, with the majority of that growth here in Colorado Springs.
What are the local challenges facing the banking industry?
Some of it certainly is we’re all facing the national issues from the Dodd-Frank Act and the regulatory effect on overhead in order to comply. And the smaller a bank is, the more difficult it is to comply. … It’s a highly competitive market, with 42 financial institutions in Colorado Springs. … Loan demand continues to be relatively soft, and bank balance sheets are probably as liquid as they’ve ever been, translating to yield compression, which affects the overall earnings of the banks in general. And a number of banks locally still haven’t cleaned up their balance sheets because the real estate market hasn’t fully recovered.
What changes would you like to see in the Springs?
This is an interesting time in Colorado Springs. If you took a snapshot of the last three or four years here [here’s what you would see]: There’s been one of the worst real estate downturns the market has experienced; the city changed to a strong mayor form of government; there was a merger between the EDC and Chamber; and there’s new leadership in town at Pikes Peak United Way, the Business Alliance, a new City Council, Downtown Partnership and the Better Business Bureau.
If we can get everyone on the same page, we have a unique opportunity in the city we haven’t had before. It’s an opportunity to effect change. When you have constant focused energy, good things happen. If people will just get out of their way and let them move the football down the field, it can bode well for us.