President and CEO, Sound Community Bank
Laurie Stewart's impact as a banker extends far beyond the footprint of her Seattle-area community bank.
With 25 years of experience as a small-bank CEO, Stewart has emerged as a leading advocate for community banking in her home state and nationwide. She has served on an advisory council to her state's banking regulator, was one of just 14 bankers appointed to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.'s inaugural advisory council on community banking when it was formed in 2009 and serves on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's community bank council.
Perhaps most notably, Stewart chairs the American Bankers Association's flagship committee, the government relations council, where she was instrumental in drawing up a public policy agenda for community banks that's starting to gain some momentum in Congress. The agenda covers a range of issues - including leveling the playing field with tax-exempt credit unions and limiting banks' liability in security breaches - but its overriding aim is to reduce the regulatory burden on small banks post-Dodd-Frank.
Stewart is also highly visible in the communities served by the $500 million-asset bank, chairing the board of the Woodland Park Zoo and volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate working with families and children in contentious custody disputes. The latter role, in which she serves as the voice of the children, is particularly demanding, requiring her to do mounds of research in preparation for making her case. The executive director of a Seattle family law center says that Stewart "deserves a superhero cape" for helping bring stability to the lives of children in turmoil.
When not running a bank, advocating for her industry or bettering her community, Stewart is likely exercising or preaching the benefits of healthier living. Stewart has lost more than 90 pounds in recent years through a combination of running, walking and healthier eating. Inspired by her own reinvention, Stewart created a wellness program at Sound Community Bank that rewards employees for making better lifestyle choices. The effort has been so successful that it allowed the bank to adopt a less-costly self-insurance program.