Reid English Ranks Tops

January 22, 2007
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LANSING — In her 10 years with Capitol Bancorp Ltd., Cristin Reid English has helped develop 45 of Capitol Bancorp's 50 affiliate community banks across 14 states. Last fall, she was designated as one of "25 Women to Watch" and one of the "25 Most Powerful Women in Banking" by U.S. Banker magazine.

Interestingly, Reid English didn't set out with the intention of building a career in banking. She originally planned to go to medical school, but in her senior year of college decided to go in to law, instead. She graduated from the University of Toledo law school in 1992 and went on to earn an MBA from the University of Michigan a few years later.

Reid English practiced law, first in the legal department of Society Bank & Trust in Ohio and then at Reid & Reid law firm in Lansing, a practice her father, Capitol Bancorp Chairman and CEO Joseph D. Reid, helped build. The practice of law, however, didn't quite suit her.

"I decided it wasn't as exciting dealing with the negative things in life as it was building a company, so I got involved in bank regulatory work," Reid English recalled.

She initially worked on the regulatory side as a vice president with Access BIDCO, then joined Capitol Bancorp as general counsel in 1997. At that time Capitol Bancorp had five community banks, and she helped with the formation of the company's sixth community bank that year.

"It frankly surprised me how much I enjoyed regulatory work. I didn't envision myself as someone who'd like to sit behind a desk and look through regulations," she said.

Capitol Bancorp develops new community banks, raises capital for them, mentors them, and provides them with all the backroom services they need to compete with large banks, including legal services, human resources, accounting, risk management and IT. Each community bank has local decision-making authority and is managed by an on-site president under the direction of a local board of directors. Of the company's 13 banks in Michigan, four are located in West Michigan: Kent Commerce Bank in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven Bank, Muskegon Commerce Bank, and Paragon Bank & Trust in Holland

Reid English said that each bank has the autonomy to make its own customer decisions, including pricing its deposits and loans, deciding what type of customer it wants to go after and what its marketing strategy will be. The emphasis on "independence" tends to be an attractive recruiting tool for higher caliber bankers, as well, she noted.

"We believe we've found a way to preserve the community bank model because we provide the backroom services for them, so that all the expertise they need is available through us," Reid English explained.

"A community bank independent of any outside assistance would have a difficult time today competing, offering all the products, having the resources to operate efficiently, and having the high level of compliance and risk management assistance they need because of all the regulations."

All that is done on the Capitol Bancorp side so the bankers can focus on being bankers, being involved in their community and assessing what their community needs are, Reid English said.

"We can't tell a bank out in NapaValley what kind of loan to make because we don't know that community. When an outsider comes in and starts to pass judgment on what's appropriate for an individual and the community, they're not going to be as effective."

Reid English moved on from the position of general counsel for Capitol Bancorp to positions of increasing authority, first as executive vice president, then chief administrative officer, then chief operating officer. She was named president of corporate operations last November. Today, the company has $3.9 billion in assets.

Reflecting on her decade of service to the company, Reid English said she's proud of the growth of Capitol Bancorp as a whole and of the quality of the employees it has been able to attract over the years.

"We have just an outstanding team," she remarked. "I'm also proud of the environment we've created here. You spend more of your waking hours with the people you work with than you do your own family, so it's really nice when you have a group of people who really, truly enjoy and respect one another."

At this stage of its development, Capitol Bancorp is eyeing some of the higher growth markets in Texas and Washington. But first and foremost, it's a people-driven organization rather than a geographically-driven organization, Reid English said. When the company finds the right person with the right talent to lead a new community bank, it builds a bank around that individual, she said.

"It's about finding the person who has the experience and has the ability to attract and retain quality employees. Then, the model works almost anywhere."

Capitol Bancorp's intention is to grow its network of community banks to 100 by 2011. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Reid English doesn't think the company will have any trouble reaching that level. The company's vision, she said, is to be seen as the provider of choice for financial service in the community banking arena. It also wants to be seen as a place where experienced bankers can go to finish out their careers, with the comfort of knowing their bank is not going to be sold, she added.

As Reid English sees it, it's fun to be a part of a company that's growing, has a lot of positive energy and is filled with talented people.

"We're so excited about the future and where we're going to be, and about all the opportunity that is yet untapped," she said.    

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