Slideshow Banking's Power Couples

Published
  • August 19 2015, 2:01pm EDT
6 Images Total

For some husbands and wives, wedded bliss extends beyond home and family. These dynamic duos run banks together, and their institutions share something else in common: consistent, high performance.

Gary and Cynthia Blankenship

When Gary and Cynthia Blankenship couldn't get an ownership stake in a local bank, they decided to strike out on their own, founding Bank of the West in Grapevine, Texas, on April 1, 1986. Gary is chairman and CEO of the $405 million-asset bank, and Cynthia is vice chairman and COO. The fact the couple opened a bank on April Fools' Day isn't lost on the Blankenships. It broke even its first year amid the Texas banking crisis, and it has never posted an annual loss, not even during the more recent financial crisis, according to Cynthia.

"People ask me, 'How have you been able to work together 30 years?' I tell them that at work, it's a partnership. We really respect each other's opinions and expertise," Cynthia said.

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Roderick Porter and Georgia Derrico

Roderick Porter and Georgia Derrico have founded and run two banks together. First came Warrenton, Va.-based Southern Financial Corp., which the couple started in April 1986 and built into a 28-branch, $1.1 billion-asset institution before selling to Provident Bancshares of Baltimore for $330 million in 2004.

The couple had dreams of splitting time between homes in Northern Virginia and southern Italy, but they flunked retirement. Instead of relaxing, they founded a second bank, Sonabank, less than a year later. Derrico serves as Sonabank's chairman and CEO. Porter is president and COO. McLean, Va.-based Sonabank has followed a trajectory similar to Southern Financial. After 11 years, it has 24 branches and assets of $1 billion.


Katherine Taylor and Tom Steyer

Given their white-shoe backgrounds, it's unsurprising that Tom Steyer and Katherine Taylor ended up running a bank. Steyer's father was a partner at the Wall Street law firm Sullivan and Cromwell; Taylor's grandfather served as chairman and president of Crocker National Bank in San Francisco. What may surprise some is the type of bank they founded.

Taylor and Steyer, who married in 1986 and once worked for big companies, are co-chairmen of Oakland, Calif.-based Beneficial State Bancorp, holding company for two community development financial institutions, Beneficial State Bank in Oakland and Albina Community Bank in Portland, Ore., which it acquired in September 2013. Beneficial State Bancorp has pledged 100% of its profits to its affiliated charitable foundation, the Beneficial State Foundation. Beneficial State Bank reported income of $1.1 million through June 30 and $1.9 million in 2014. Albina, which posted a $655,000 profit last year, has earned $1.9 million in 2015.


Daniel and Pamela Morrison

Over the years, Daniel and Pamela Morrison watched the number of banks based in the Granite State steadily dwindle, from more than 100 in the early 1990s to fewer than two dozen 15 years later. The Morrisons eventually decided to do something about it. They raised $12 million and founded Optima Bank in January 2008. Daniel serves as chairman and CEO, while Pamela is senior vice president and chief administrative officer.

Optima, which has grown to five branches and $343 million of assets, reported record net income of $1.64 million in 2014. It is on pace to top that total this year. Not bad for a bank that got its start in a conversation at the Morrisons' dining room table. "You don't do something like this without expecting it to be successful, but the community here has been more receptive than we could have hoped," Daniel said.

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Michael and Judy Guttau

Michael Guttau was working as a loan officer at Treynor State Bank in Treynor, Iowa, when the bank's CEO offered him the opportunity to buy the bank. Guttau, a veteran who piloted an attack helicopter in Vietnam, had planned to take up farming after leaving the Army, but he fell in love with community banking instead and jumped at the offer. One of the first people he brought on board was his wife, Judy, who has served for 37 years as secretary to the board and as the bank's director of community reinvestment.

Michael ceded day-to-day control of $302 million-asset Treynor State (which reported a robust profit of $3.9 million through June 30) to son Josh in March 2014. Michael remains chairman, and he is devoting his time now to building a network of Midwestern community banks. The Guttaus' holding company, TS Banking Group, has acquired two small community banking companies in North Dakota, Tioga Bank Holding Co. and Farmer's State Bank.