Bob Regnier – Founder of Bank of Blue Valley

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Bob Regnier is the Founder and Vice Chairman of Bank of Blue Valley. Prior to announcing his retirement he Bob served as Chairman, President and CEO for more than 30 years. In 1989 Bob

organized and developed investors for a newly chartered bank in Johnson County. Responsible for charter application, initial location real estate acquisition, and staffing, Bob opened the Bank of Blue Valley on December 18, 1989.

 

The organization developed from its initial asset base $2,150,000 to an organization with total assets of $670,000,000, total loans of $525,000,000, and total deposits of $600,000,000.

 

The bank was initially capitalized at $2,150,000 with approximately 50 shareholders.  The bank initiated a secondary offering in 1993 raising an additional $2,000,000 to assist in the construction of our principal building location at 119th & Metcalf.  Over the succeeding years the bank has successfully marketed three trust preferred offerings totaling $18,000,000.  The total capital of the bank holding company has expanded from its $2,150,000 initial capital base to in excess of $60,000,000.  In 2000, in conjunction with its first trust preferred offering, the bank became an SEC reporting company.  In July of 2002 the bank’s common stock was listed on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board under the symbol BVBC.  The bank was a recipient of a preferred stock investment by the US Treasury Capital Purchase Program in 2008. The TARP investment was retired in October 2015.

 

The bank initially began its operations in a doublewide mobile home at the intersection of 119th & Metcalf.  Over the years the bank has expanded to six locations.  The bank developed its 38,000 sq.ft. headquarters building at 119th & Metcalf in 1994. In the second quarter of 1994 the bank expanded into Olathe with the purchase of an existing facility at Santa Fe & Ridgeview.  The bank opened a branch in Shawnee at the intersection of Johnson Drive & K-7 Hwy in the second quarter of 2000.  The bank expanded into Leawood at the intersection of 135th & Mission Road in the first quarter of 2001.  In the second quarter of 2001 the bank purchased a branch of a competing bank and consolidated our Olathe branch into that facility.  In the first quarter of 2003 the bank purchased a 55,000 sq.ft. building at the corner of College & Lowell to house its expanded mortgage operations.  In the second quarter of 2007 the bank purchased Western National Bank and established a facility at 95th & Lackman.

 

When the bank opened its doors in 1989 it employed four officers and four non officer employees.  As the organization has grown it has expanded to over 60 officers and 200 employees operating within four operating divisions.

 

From its initial beginnings the bank was an active residential real estate lender and that business expanded dramatically in 2001 with the acquisition of the Internetmortgage.com domain name.  The bank has expanded its residential real estate lending area to a total of over 100 employees.  In calendar 2003 the bank initiated in excess of 7,500 loans totaling over $1.5 billion in long term mortgage loans.  The Internetmortgage.com domain name became a very well-established national mortgage lending resource.

 

Over the years the bank has been successful in blending growth with financial performance.  The bank was recognized by Ingram’s Magazine as one of the fastest growing companies in Kansas City in 1996 through 2004.

 

Bob received his degree in Economics from Kansas State University, and an MBA in Finance from UMKC. He continues to reside in the Blue Valley area where he is engaged helping serve families in the community.

 

Transcript:

 

Alan Olsen: Hi, this is Alan Olsen. And welcome to American Dreams. I’m here today with Bob Regnier. Bob, welcome to today’s show.

 

Bob Regnier: Thank you. Well, nice to be here.

 

Alan Olsen: So I recently met Bob at lunch. You know, I moved back to the Midwest. And one of my first introductions was the founder of Blue Valley Bank. So there’s a story here, Bob, that I invited you on to the show today. And I’d like to for the guests here. You know, to hear your story of how did you get to where you are today? Why don’t we start maybe back through education did you grew up in this area?

 

Bob Regnier: I did. I grew up in the whole time in suburban Johnson County and Kansas City and went to the through the Shawnee Mission School District went to K State, Kansas State University in Manhattan, came back to Kansas City and actually went got my Master’s at UMKC as well. But, I kind of came back and I was looking for, there is a humorous side of the story. My dad was a successful businessman and in the real estate business, and I did a couple interviews when I was at K State, but I and I was going to go work for the family business. So I wouldn’t really didn’t put my heart into it. And so I got to Kansas City. And literally the next day, my dad said, you know, he was kind of one of those Greatest Generation types that said, Hey, man, no, as long as you’re living in my house, you’re not going to keep sleeping. So get up and lets go to work. And so we went to work and so I started working for him. And my dad was in the middle of building a building at that point in time. And he said get into the ditch and start to clean it out a little bit, because we got to pour footing a little bit later. And if I did that, kind of muddy and rained a little bit I mean, it was just kind of, kind of nasty. And I did that, that day, and the next day, and the next day and the next day. And, and finally I told my dad, I said, “Dad, I went to college so I wouldn’t have to dig ditches.” He said, “You know, Bob, you got to start there. And frankly, you’re not doing a very good job of digging ditches.” And I said, “Well, I may want to do something else, because I don’t know that I want to spend the next year working my way up to a job.” And he said, “Fine, you could go ahead and work for whatever you want to work for. But as long as you’re living in my house,” (and I was at that point in time,) he says, “you’re going to go to work every day.” So I’d get up early, because my dad went to work early. And I would go out to a coffee shop for 30 minutes. So I knew he was gone. And I’d come back and go back to bed or get up and I finally found a job working for as a welder. And then I eventually got a job working for a bank for the Baltimore bank. And so that that was my early career. I worked for Baltimore for about 20 years. At that point in time it went through two or three mergers. And I became the I was in my last job with them. I was the EVP of Bublitz First National Bank, which is about a $2 billion bank. And they were going through another merger with another bank. And what they said to me was, hey, I want you to do administrative jobs. I don’t want you to be do banking jobs and make loans and work for customers because I handled all their real estate and I did a lot of administrative duties for the bank. And I said, I don’t want to do that anymore; I want to stay in banking. And so they get they said, you know, we’ll give you the opportunity to go do your own thing if you’d like. And so they bought me out at five point charter and Bank of Blue Valley came shortly thereafter. So that’s kind of the long story of how I got into banking. And it was my first 20 years in banking. At the Baltimore, which became Bowman’s first national, was really instrumental. I had a great mentor like most of us in life, I was blessed with somebody that really cared and was really, really smart and trusted me enough that he gave me some running room and allowed me to do some things that probably, you know, I maybe shouldn’t have been allowed to do at that tender age. But it was a great first start and gave me the the training I needed to start the Bank of Blue Valley.

 

Alan Olsen: So the timeframe about 1989 at the founding of Blue Valley Bank.

 

Bob Regnier: That is correct.

 

Alan Olsen: I am curious what what was Blue Valley like at that time?

 

Bob Regnier: You know, where the the main bank is there at 119th and Metcalf, and that is one of the the busiest intersections in the entire state of Kansas. When I built the bank, there was nothing on that corner. There was the all the buildings that are on all there’s actually five corners to that intersection. And all five corners were completely empty. There was a Quik Trip, right next door to the bank that was built. And it was under construction when I started the bank, and I actually bought a piece of real estate and I put a double wide mobile home on it. So that was my first home for the first four years before I built the the main building. But you know, when you think about it, 119th and Metcalf, which is a incredibly vibrant intersection now, was nothing back then in 1980.

 

Alan Olsen: You know, it’s interesting, if we go back to the nothing was really developed yet. Blue Valley today is known for the school districts. And what is the, you know, what’s the history there Bob? Were you involved at all with the development of the Blue Valley School District or

 

Bob Regnier: I wasn’t involved in the development of it because it gotten started. But was kind of at that point in time, it was just kind of emerging from being almost a rural school district, it was very small. And I remember having an issue of is growing so fast, that area was developing. And it was growing so fast that they couldn’t build schools fast enough. I got into a like most of us do. We are advocates for our children. And you don’t, I had somebody told me a long time ago, you don’t have perspective, when it comes to your kids. You know, you it’s one thing that he you always looking out for the best, but I got into an issue because they were busing my child to a school that was a long way away. Because they didn’t have room in the school. It was a he was supposed to go to. And I went to the school district and I complained vigorously. And I said, you know, you guys, I said a third grader could do a better job of managers than I then you have. And I was really pretty indignant at that point in time. But he was I remember, he was very calm and said, you know, Bob, you’re a smart guy, you’re well respected. He said, you know, you need to get engaged with the school district so that you can provide some of your expertise. And I said, well, maybe I’ll will. And so through a series of events, I got appointed to a committee that was involved with, you know, actually how, you know, the growth was was managed. And I got to see firsthand how difficult those decisions were for a fast growing district. And then subsequent to that. I was asked by a group of people to run for the school board. And I ran for the school board and won and was on the school board from ’92 to 2000. I was president for a couple of years. I was actually interesting little this is a kind of an interesting quirk. I was in I was president of the only (now there is 300 school districts in Kansas) the only school district in the state of Kansas that had seven women and one man. So and I was the I was the president at that point in time. It was a great school district really engaged. I mean, the school district is really good and it has a great foundation. But the people I worked with were really great, you know, these are all people that were passionate about education. And, we got into a lot of engaged conversations. And I really feel like that, that eight years that I did at that point in time, were very helpful to me. But it’s also probably some of the most rewarding public service work that I’ve ever done in my life. So it was good.

 

Alan Olsen: Well, Johnson county takes great pride in the school district that has been developed and sounds like you were there from day one, helping lay a foundation and a pattern. I am just curious, when you look back, is there something that you would attribute to the success of the Blue Valley School District? And the reputation it has today?

 

Bob Regnier:  Well, I don’t know. That’s a good question. First of all, we had some really good initial leadership, we had good boards, there were there wasn’t a lot of there was a lot of vigorous discussion. But you know, what we see today is more of a left, right, sort of, you know, kind of confuses some of the educational philosophy, we really didn’t have it back then. I mean, we had arguments about a lot of things, frankly, we argued about books, we argued about curriculum, we argued about reporting to the parents, and we argued about boundaries and how to help the district grow. But we we had a couple really good leaders in that early days. And, frankly, the board understood that our job was to communicate with patrons, but it was also to hire the superintendent and leave the superintendent alone. And I think that is where some school districts run into problems when they don’t understand that process. Because, frankly, we had some bright people, good business people, a lot of individuals that stayed at home. And this was, frankly, this was their job, and they spent 40 hours a week working on it. But you know, it, everybody has to understand that education is a very, it’s a complicated process. And it has to be done right. And it has to, you have to lay a really good foundation. And I think to do that, you need to you have a lot of frank conversation with your superintendent. But after you’ve had those conversations, you’ve got to step back and let him do his job. And if he doesn’t do his job, you need to change and bring in a new superintendent that frankly, we had two or three superintendents in a row that were just spectacular.

 

Alan Olsen: There’s a saying you teach them correct principles, and then you let them govern themselves. And, and it was by no accident, I can see that the Blue Valley turned out to what it is today, many, many school districts are growing in the same time period. But, this one stands out. So thank you, to you and leadership, for impasse for what it is today. I want to move back to the bank though. I gotta I have a few questions here. So` 1989, you know, there were ups and downs in the whole banking industry, and then starting out at that time, I’m sure there was a little bit of trepidation in terms of venturing out to do your own bank, especially in a double wide trailer. What was it like getting your first deposit?

 

Bob Regnier:  Oh, I actually I remember my first customer, which was really funny, because it was a snowy day. I mean, it was cold. I mean, it had snowed, I was in this mobile home, you know, that double wide mobile home. And, and like I said, there was nothing on that intersection. So I look out the window. And there was 119th Street was there, and Metcalf was there. But that was it. And I mean, cars would go by and that we had the street that leads into the bank, at that point in time. Only had the QuikTrip and us on there. And so I would sit there in my office, and we opened up at seven o’clock and I kept looking at cars that turned in and they would all turn into the QuikTrip and they wouldn’t come down to the bank. Finally a car keeps coming straight, and makes the turn and I thought oh my gosh, my very first customer at the bank. And so I got out and I recognized who it was. And I met him at the front door. And it was my attorney. And he was there to present his bill for the formation of the bank. But anyway, I had a good board, had a great board, some people that were very engaged in the community and I empowered them to go out and make a lot of referrals to me. I had 20 years in the banking industry and frankly, most of my shareholders and this was maybe a little unusual because I didn’t have any large shareholders. That point in time there was enough kind of variety in the in the markets that, you know, starting a bank was kind of kind of risky. And, and so I had some people that had 100, and I maybe had a one guy that had a couple 100 grand in the bank, but most most it didn’t, but I raised a little over $2 million, about two, two and a quarter million dollars. But I met with all of my shareholders, and there were about 40 of them, 50 of them, and I said, you’ve got to help me, you’ve got to bring me referrals, and I will sell the bank, you just got to make the introduction, and they did a great job, we picked up it and frankly, I was fortunate that I was in an area that was growing, that whole intersection started to really come together. And so it was good timing. You mentioned a little bit about that timing, it’s kind of interesting, because I think, you know, sometimes some of those fortuitous things in life happen, sort of by accident. But you remember the Tax Reform Act of ’86, caused a lot of dislocation, a lot of problems with loans and those kinds of things. And, frankly, by ’89 all the problems were still there, but they weren’t getting worse. So frankly, there really just wasn’t temptation for us to do anything highly risky at that point in time. And we were looking for bread and butter deals, and it was a good time to start a bank because rates were starting to move back up at that point in time. And we build a nice little base of business and actually broke even our first year and then made money every year after that.

 

Alan Olsen: Therein is a story in itself, not everyone breaks even the first year, when you when you set out with the business model, is there a certain industry that you focused in on?

 

Bob Regnier: Well, my dad was in commercial real estate, but prior to that he had a 30 year record in the housing and residential construction. And so that was an area that in the whole time I was growing up as a kid, you know, I would, you know, I would get home from school and you know, my dad would pick me up and we I’d go clean out houses to get them ready for the carpenters the next day to come back in. And so I, I knew a lot of people in that industry. And we did a lot of residential construction in that first 10 years away, really, for the whole life of the bank. For that matter. We did a lot of residential construction. So there was that I did a lot of lending to the heavy construction industry. And I had two or three shareholders and customers that were excavators, bridge builders, those kinds of things that did heavy construction. So I did some of that. And then frankly anybody that from a commercial perspective that I knew that I could do business with, we engage so it was fairly broad based, but, you know, the, you know, the way the industry works, particularly for smaller banks, there’s a lot of real estate lending. And that was something I felt like I had some understanding of.

 

Alan Olsen: So Bob, not only were you involved with building a bank serving on the school board, but there was also other aspects that you were involved with in terms of philanthropy and helping build the community back, I believe there’s several colleges that have buildings named after you, and what inspired you to get into doing that philanthropic endeavor when you already were giving so much into the school district and your business.

 

Bob Regnier:  Its interesting. And again, like I said, as a tax guy, you would very much understand this, again, back up for a second. My dad came from a real hardscrabble zero. He had zero net worth when he when he got started, right, he came out of the war in 1951-52, and started building houses. So he was he started from from absolutely zero and he was very successful. He was a hard working guy that did well, but he was also a creature of the recession. I mean, excuse me, and I always talk about the great recession of the Depression. And he was in a family, his dad was a carpenter, his mother was a nurse, and they literally would, there were years when they would have to move two or three times because I couldn’t pay the rent. So the Depression had a deep impact on him. And he always worried about going broke because of that experience. And as a result of that, my dad was really reticent to do any kind of estate plan. And he built have very substantial net worth and was very successful in developing first residential and then commercial real estate. And when he ended up with cancer, and we started talking to a his accountant and his attorney, and we were really in a heck of a mess, because he was really at the end of his life, and he had done virtually no planning. And so we were faced with a situation and it was a brother, older brother, younger sister, where, we could have inherited what he had, you know, with some fairly limited trust, things put in place, but you know, at the very last minute, it’s hard to do anything horribly creative. And we would have paid an enormous amount of money in taxes, I mean, you know, eight figure tax payments. And, and so the one of the attorneys came back and said, Look, there’s an alternative to this. And we did several things that, you know, created some tax advantages for us, but part of it, a lot of it was giving a portion of estate to a charitable foundation. And that charity foundation with a turbo remainder trust, it’s not the things allowed us to kind of keep things together, and keep the organization going forward. But you know, substantially reduce the tax liability. So really, when it came down to it, my brother and sister and I sat down and said, Look, we can pay this huge tax bill. Or we can take, you know, a third of what we were being what we were inheriting and put it into a charitable trust, and reduce that bill by a substantial amount. And we, I’m very thankful that we chose to second. And that was the start of the Victor and Helen Renier Family Foundation.

 

Alan Olsen: Well, the community certainly benefited from that. So Bob, when you’re looking at where you’re at today, a few years back, you rolled up the bank into a much larger institution, is that is that correct?

 

Bob Regnier: Yeah, the we ran the bank as an independent bank from 1989 to 2019. And, then sold it to Heartland financial, which is based out of Dubuque, Iowa, and merged it into that they had a bank in Kansas City, we merged those two banks together, and we retained the Bank of Blue Valley name because it had a very strong reputation as a commercial bank, and as a bank that was a good connection for small businesses.

 

Alan Olsen: So what’s your next chapter in life? Life after banking?

 

Bob Regnier: Well, that’s, that’s a good question. And that my wife, you know, would like to know the same answer. So no, I kid about that, but we talked about it a lot. And my dad’s business still is alive and well. And so I have, I’ve been working pretty actively with that, because there’s real estate that has to be redeveloped, some of his real estate is 56 years old. And so we were just finishing a very, very large renovation of a shopping center that he was his very first shopping center, actually. And so I’m working on things like that. But the other thing that I have been involved with a lot of charitable things in the past, but a lot of it was there was a connection to the bank in one form or another because he was either the bank customer, or there were people that I was soliciting for, for banking business. And again, they are all good charities, but they really weren’t my passion. And my passion, I think, I’ve discovered is affordable housing. And I’m talking about affordable housing, you know, housing, you know, ownership. And so I have spent a fair amount of time in the last couple years working with several CDFIs in Kansas City and organizations that have concentrated in the housing industry and trying to help create affordable housing for sale to, you know, for individuals. And so I’m working with to three organizations helping them there’s another individual and I and some other friends that have gotten together and we’ve started a little company and it’s our goal to build 10 affordable homes in Kansas City, Missouri, over the next three years, and so we are going to put our toe in the water there. The one thing I’ve learned about that process is it is exceedingly hard. And matter of fact, I don’t want to say it’s impossible because people are accomplishing them. But I was talking to a fellow the other day and he was building a house that is in a little bit more of a gentrified neighborhood that was closer to Crown Center. And so it’s a little bit more expensive area. But you know, the house he was building, I thought was kind of pedestrian. And it was nice looking. And it was new, and it handled with very nicely appointed, but it sure wasn’t anything super special. And I said, What are you going to? What are you going to ask for the house, he said, $600,000. And I said, That’s not affordable housing, that’s upper end housing, I mean, that you’re going to take thing, you need a professional to be able to buy that house. And that’s not my goal, my goal is to try to help people own their first house, and there are programs out there through the government and through the states that allow you to do some downpayment assistance and get, you know, the federal loans and that kind of stuff. But you know, that’s the problem is that, you know, you, I think, to build a house, it has to be at the $300,000 level. And below, really, you’d like for it to be at $200,000. But it’s very difficult to build a $200,000 house, but that is going to be my experiment, come back. And we’re talking in three years, and I’ll tell you whether I was successful or not, because I we may be particularly unsuccessful, I know one thing we will build 10 houses, and we’re committed to doing that, and we’re going to do them and build these are not going to be really not good looking houses I want something that people can be proud of, because that is what and you know, this from your tax background and your financial planning background. For better for worse, generational wealth is created by real estate. And a lot of people, a lot of minorities, a lot of people have just lower means have just not had the ability to buy their own home. And when you can buy your own house. And if you’re diligent and you do a good job, you end up building some equity, you might even go to a bigger house. But you build generational wealth. If you’re a renter your entire life. It’s really difficult to do that. And so that is a long answer to a very short question. But I I really feel like, you know, if we were talking about helping people move up and building a stronger base of people in the United States, I think we need to help people on that side of the ledger.

 

Alan Olsen: I love it. Well, Bob, it’s been a pleasure having you with us today.

 

Bob Regnier: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure that completely and i i look forward to, to getting to know you better as the as you if we if we meet other people in Kansas City, and I think it will be a great opportunity. We appreciate the fact that you are back in Kansas City. And you are also a customer of the Bank of Blue Valley. And I’m very thankful that too.

 

Alan Olsen:  Thank you, Bob. Thank you! I have been visiting here today with Bob Regnier, the founder of Bank of Blue Valley, and thanks for joining us here in American Dreams.

 

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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.

Alan Olsen, is the Host of the American Dreams Show and the Managing Partner of GROCO.com.  GROCO is a premier family office and tax advisory firm located in the San Francisco Bay area serving clients all over the world.

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