Fintech powerhouse Jackie Reses leads the company that recently acquired Kansas City-based Lead Bank, and many people probably expected her to direct from afar.
But Reses, whose past experience includes stops at Alibaba and Square, has more than a passing interest in Kansas City: She plans to move here and “be a regular part of the community."
"I really enjoy Kansas City and think it’s a hidden treasure," Reses told the Kansas City Business Journal. "I love the food. I love the culture. I love the people. It’s been super fun so far."
However, Reses also sees potential in her new investment. Now Lead Bank's chairwoman, Reses can tap her vast resources and business connections in global technology and finance to help the bank become a small business powerhouse. Reses, named among American Banker's "Most Powerful Women in Finance" in 2020, led a group of investors in a California shell company called Luna Parent Inc. that acquired Lead Bank in July.
“What I see at Lead Bank is the highest-quality group of people, with an incredibly strong belief in serving their local customer and being a really strong bank that is the foundation for a strong community,” she said. “I saw this as a great opportunity to invest in a business that fits an ethos I’d like to be a part of. You have this great business, with great clients in a great community. We have people who are really proud to work here. They have a breadth of business around payments, around banking as a service and around the support for serving their clients. They have a customer service orientation, the interest in having strong technology to support clients and a different way of doing business. I appreciate that, and I'm happy to be a part of it.”
Reses was born into a family of entrepreneurs in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Growing up working for the family business instilled a soft spot for small business owners. She plans to use her new position as chairwoman to help them as much as possible.
After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School in 1992, Reses took a job handling mergers and acquisitions for Goldman Sachs. She later spent 10 years as head of the media group for Apax Partners, one of the world's largest private equity funds. She left there in 2012 to join Yahoo, a job that included managing all of its Asian assets. One of her tasks was working with Alibaba to resolve banking issues, separate out Alipay and assist with Alibaba's initial public offering.
“That opportunity was truly a life-altering experience,” Reses said. “(Alibaba co-founders) Jack Ma and Joe Tsai are such unusual entrepreneurs on a global scale. Seeing a different culture and a different way of doing business, from operations to HR policies, to how you set up a bank, to separation of corporate ownership. I was being driven to question assumptions about how you operate a company. It was an amazing experience.”
After working on Alibaba, Reses began talking to Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter and founder of Square Inc., now known as Block Inc. Reses joined the company in 2015 as capital lead and executive chair of Square Financial Services. It was still quite small at the time.
“I went from being a corporate executive with 10,000 employees working for me to having none, which I loved because I liked going back to my entrepreneurial roots,” Reses said. “I thought it would be super fun to go build out banking and lending for Square. It really was a business that hadn’t existed in a tech company, and I wanted to build products that challenged every convention of banking and lending, and really turn the business on its head."
Reses plans to continue her work transforming banking at Lead Bank. She doesn't plan to make huge changes to the business plan, just boost it.
“The business lines that Lead Bank is in today are serving consumers, serving businesses and serving fintechs through banking-as-a-service, and I think we’ll continue to do the same thing,” Reses said. “But we’ll have additional technical, regulatory and compliance expertise that we can add in to make the experience hopefully better for our customers. So I think we already have a breadth of product lines we can lean into with additional technical expertise and legal and compliance expertise, and we can hopefully serve people with additional technology they haven’t experienced before.”
Reses said she has been spending most of her time as chairwoman getting to know Lead Bank's customers. She came to Kansas City on Tuesday and spent time talking with clients visiting the bank’s headquarters at 1801 Main St.
Her interest at the moment isn’t to connect with CEOs of the area's biggest companies. Instead, she wants to meet entrepreneurs and small business owners — the core client base for Lead Bank. She wants to form real relationships, which is why she plans to move here.
“I plan to be a regular part of the community as soon as I can figure out where I want to live,” Reses said. “The folks at Lead Bank are super friendly and have been a great introduction to the community. I’ve already got a moving truck coming in a week or two to bring some stuff here.”
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