September 27, 2013
Greg Edwards Reporter- St. Louis Business Journal
Rick Sems started his banking career just 13 years ago as a trainee with National City, and apparently he was a quick study. After a stint in Peoria and two in Cleveland, he was named market president in St. Louis, a few months before the bank was sold to PNC in 2008.
He met Tom Brouster when he came to St. Louis with National City, which had bought Brouster’s Pioneer Bank and Trust in 2005. Brouster became chairman of Missouri banking for PNC and liked what he saw in Sems.
This summer Brouster, now chairman of Reliance Bank, hired Sems as president and chief executive. "We have a high concentration of commercial real estate loans, and Rick has considerable experience in commercial and industrial loans, which we need to diversify," Brouster said.
Sems, 42, sat down to talk with us about his move.
Why did you leave PNC for Reliance?
I’m entrepreneurial and have owned small businesses. Part of it was learning I’ll be able to be involved in everything at a smaller bank.
Are you an investor in Reliance?
Not yet, but I plan to be.
Brouster is known for what he calls his war room, a disciplined and relentless system using white boards to track overdue loans and personal calls to collect them. At PNC, did you have anything like that?
Not to that degree. We had pipeline reporting, but this is very nitty gritty. But I’m a white-board guy.
What is the biggest difference between a regional bank such as PNC and a community bank such as Reliance?
Decision-making is so much quicker at community banks. Bigger banks can do lower prices and bigger loan amounts, but community banks can focus more on the character of the borrower. However, I also like the opportunity to bring a bit of big-bank sophistication.
What is the future of loan growth in St. Louis?
St. Louis is not growing. But it has the opportunity to grow over the next 10 to 20 years because of its low cost of living and land costs, railroads, the Mississippi River and an airport. In the near future, it’s dog eat dog.
Why did you bring Tim Fogerty with you from PNC as senior lender?
Trust. I used to work for him in Peoria, and I think he is the best commercial banker in the city.
Are there too few loans or too many lenders in St. Louis?
Probably too many lenders, but it’s a free market.
What is the best trend in banking today?
In retail banking, mobile banking.