An Interview with Larry F. Mazza, CEO of MVB Bank, Inc.
Larry Mazza is Chief Executive Officer of MVB Financial Corp., the parent of West Virginia-based MVB Bank, Inc. Mr. Mazza also serves on the MVB Financial Corp. Board of Directors. He is a recognized name in West Virginia banking with over 25 years of experience in both large banks and community banks. Mr. Mazza is a member of the West Virginia Board of Banking and Financial Institutions, part of the State’s banking regulatory and oversight agency. This seven member Board oversees the operation of financial institutions throughout the State and advises the West Virginia Commissioner of Banking on matters put forth by financial institutions. We asked Larry about his thoughts on the future or community banking and how to achieve success.
Q: Tell us about MVB Bank – its history, its expansion and where it is today.
A: MVB in the past nine years has grown assets from $100 million to $1 billion, from 35 team members to 350. We make $1.5 billion in loans a year. The good news is we have plenty of runway to grow. We are a growing community bank that was founded on the principles of strong relationships, honesty, respect and accountability. Today, we have nine locations, with our tenth location opening in the I-79 Technology Park in first quarter and another office opening in Charleston, West Virginia soon after. Today, our bank footprint includes Marion, Harrison, Monongalia, Jefferson, Berkeley and Kanawha counties in West Virginia, and also a commercial lending office in Reston, Virginia. We also have two subsidiaries; MVB Mortgage in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina as well as our own Insurance agency, MVB Insurance. As we strategically plan to maintain our quality growth model, we continue to look for new markets where we can go and bring our special brand of relationship banking and financial services.
Q: What is the outlook for the banking industry? What is the role of community banks in the future?
A: Community banks are defined as banks with assets of $10 Billion and under. Using this definition more than 90% percent of all banks in the U.S. would be labeled “community banks.” But when you look at the assets of CITIGROUP and Wells Fargo, they are each the size of ALL 6,000 community banks combined.
Community banks play a critical role in our economy because we support the local businesses that make our communities strong. Small business owners don’t care much about a bank’s asset size, but they care very much about certain bank characteristics that are unique in a community bank - that secret sauce is relationship banking. Carve this in stone - “small businesses and community banks are the two true pillars of America’s Main Street economy.”
To a small business owner, a community bank:
- is locally owned and managed,
- takes into account a business owner’s character when making loan decisions, and
- decides small business loans by a local committee, not credit scoring by a computer.
According to the FDIC, community banks make 60 percent of all small business loans. Small business lending is right in MVB’s wheelhouse, which was validated by being recognized as the SBA Community Bank of the Year for 2015. We have a bright future serving our communities.
Q: What are the biggest opportunities for growth of community banks?
A: If you think about it, the biggest technology change in banking over the past 25 years has been the ATM. Now there is a new wave of technological advances. Technology has the potential to open doors of opportunity for community banks. The days of visiting a bricks-and-mortar facility for basic transactions ¾ or even some advanced banking questions or transactions ¾ is no longer a client’s only option. It is essential that community banks bring banking to the client, wherever that client chooses to be. A commitment to development and implementation of technical conveniences for our clients will define opportunity for community banks in the coming years.
Q: What differentiates community banks from other financial institutions?
A: Quite frankly, it comes down to priorities and the company we keep. Community banks, like MVB Bank, have a much deeper focus on cultivating and growing relationships in our local communities. It is important to us since our leadership and team live in our communities. The relationships we build are with individuals as well as the community as a whole. We support high school sports, local food drives, community centers and annual festivals. We contribute not only a large amount of money, but have volunteered over 3,500 hours of manpower per year. We have a stake in our communities, we are a resource and that means the world to our clients.
Q: What should be the focus of community banking?
Our focus is our mission. Our mission is to have a positive influence on the lives of our clients, the people in our communities. They have checking and savings accounts with us. They finance their homes and cars with us. We serve them as individuals, as families and as places of business. Our service and support is to every facet of these communities, because community bank employees are a part of that vibrant community. We help shape local businesses, local economies and local interests because WE are local.
Q: Does community banking in West Virginia differ from community banking in other neighboring states? If so, how?
A: While markets and state laws may differ slightly, our general purpose and mission are the same: help people. Help them make money, grow their savings, protect those assets, provide convenience and serve the people that live in our community.
Q: What career advice would you give to a young person entering the banking industry (tailored to community banking or banking generally)?
A: First, choose a career you enjoy so much you would do it for free. You must commit to always bettering yourself to keep learning and growing so you will always contribute to the best of your abilities. Learn everything you can about your institution, its mission, its vision, its brand and the clients who bank there. Learn the industry. Watch the trends. Read. Always read. And, then read some more. I often say “grow your head, or you’re dead.” As a leader, I would choose hard work over talent every time. Ask each day, “What’s my contribution to the team today?” Always remember more people get fired for not getting along than for not doing their jobs…be a team player.
Q: What is your leadership philosophy? How has your philosophy molded your bank and its corporate culture?
A: To me, it’s all about relationships and relationships are built on three principles; love, trust, and commitment. People ask three questions constantly in all relationships:
- Do you care about me?
- Can I trust you?
- Are you committed to being the best you can be?
If you can’t answer all three questions affirmatively, then the relationship will be damaged and will likely end.
I cannot undervalue the importance of teamwork. Hiring the right people is key. We have such a unique model; people come to us frequently to be part of our team. We hire the best possible people and then we let them do what they know how to do so well. Our culture centers on building relationship and that starts with our team. I ask all of our team to simply Be Prepared, Be Proactive and Be Present. If we keep that philosophy in mind with each and every one of our relationships, we will continue to be successful.
Q: What is the “low hanging fruit” that community bankers are not taking advantage of to increase their revenue?
Competition is intense in the financial services sector. We focus on three major lines of business banking, mortgage lending and insurance for our revenue growth. These three lines of business are what is most needed in the communities we serve. As a community bank, for us, the opportunity exists in simply getting out in our communities, identifying the opportunity and going after the business. Here in West Virginia, there is such a rich entrepreneurial spirit. From the farm-to-table initiatives engaging farmers and epicurean trades, to the support trade development growth for the growing oil and natural gas industry, there is so much opportunity. Every day we meet clients being positively affected by such growth. Our team knows it is about going out, being proactive, learning what the needs are and figuring out a customized solution for each client.
Q: What are the biggest hurdles facing community banks (or your biggest fear for the industry)?
A: Coming out of the great recession which caused many bank failures, Congress and regulators have instituted a number of new regulations which is an understandable reaction, but implementation has been very costly in dollars and time. Banks must deal with these issues as well as address challenges created by technology and non-bank competition.
Q: Speaking of regulations, what impact does the changing regulatory landscape have on community banks?
A: A new term has evolved for all the new regulations called “regulatory fatigue.” It is real; it’s impacting all banks - community or otherwise. Regulatory processes and the oversight of financial institutions have changed markedly in a relatively short amount of time. In order to meet these new regulatory mandates and challenges, a commitment of resources and attention to these processes isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity. As I noted previously, we must work within these regulations and serve our clients to the best of our ability, all while figuring out how to grow our markets. Again, the successful community banks ultimately will be those who are forward thinking in their approach to addressing industry regulation and applying it to their community philosophy.