Location: Wilmington, N.C.
Assets: $1.2 billion
Employees: 341
Chairman and CEO: James "Chip" Mahan

Make it three in a row for Live Oak Bank.

Initiatives like "Live Oak U" help explain why this bank has topped our list of the best places to work for three years running.

The bank, which focuses on small-business lending, started the continuing education program for employees and directors in 2013. Today, more than 20 courses are offered on topics such as managerial effectiveness, credit underwriting and banking fundamentals. More than 75% of Live Oak employees have taken at least one class.

"Live Oak Bank is committed to the goal of becoming a teaching organization and a learning organization," said James "Chip" Mahan, its chairman and chief executive.

Live Oak partners with the nearby University of North Carolina at Wilmington to offer courses, but Mahan teaches one of the most popular ones: "Live Oak Culture 101," which provides an overview of the bank's history, tradition, work life and values.

All courses are taught in a classroom by an instructor, but they are often available online as well. The courses are free and most are open to all Live Oak employees. While several courses can earn university credit, employees do not have to be working toward a degree to take one.

"The ultimate goal is that all employees at the bank have access to any career path they choose," Mahan said.

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