Live Oak Bank, which has just been recognized by American Banker as the best bank to work for, is taking root in an additional lending niche.
The Wilmington-based bank announced this week that it will begin offering SBA-guaranteed loans to independent insurance agents. This expansion brings to 11 the number of industries within which Live Oak lends.
The bank invests significant time in understanding an industry and its need prior to entering a new industry. We saw a need for financing in this space, Kay Anderson, general manager of emerging markets for Live Oak, said in a news release.
When it adds a new niche, Live Oak brings in a person with extensive experience in that industry to head up the new team. Mike Strakhov, a career insurance professional, will lead the new division. Strakhov, who moved to Wilmington in mid-July from Columbus, Ohio, has nearly three decades of experience in the industry.
Before joining Live Oak, Strakhov served as branch vice president of CNA Insurance Companies for the state of Ohio, according to a news release from the bank. His career also included tenure with Chubb Group of Insurance Companies and First Niagara Risk Management.
Strakhov said Thursday that his experience with a large insurance carrier as well as an individual agency has given him a comprehensive view of how the industry functions.
With that combined experience, what the bank has asked me to do is to provide insights about the industry and how various aspects of it work; what would be very good, and what might be red flags, he said.
The new division leader anticipates building a launch team of four to five people. Thus far, he has hired a senior loan officer, he said.
Anderson said Strakhovs significant contacts within the insurance industry will be a key resource as Live Oak enters the market.
With Mikes industry knowledge and leadership, we will focus on strategic partnerships and educating the industry on our lending programs to achieve success in this market, she said in the release.
Company spokesman Micah Davis said that bringing in an industry expert is one way Live Oak is smarter in how we go to market; not wasting time.
What you learn from a person who knows the industry landscape helps us be relevant and solve problems, Davis said Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the fast-growing bank was pleased to note that it again topped American Bankers list of best banks to work for. The bank was number one in 2014 as well.
Chip [Mahan, chairman and CEO] and Neil [Underwood, president] want to build a company people are proud to come to work for every day, Davis said. We love what we do and we have a good time.
The banks focus on lending and the development of technology to make that lending process more efficient improves the experience for borrowers, he added.