Stockmens Bank, started in crisis, thrives today

Rob Alexander, president and founder of Stockmens Bank, has led the way from a meager start to a success today.

Stockmens Bank

601 N. Nevada Ave.

Owner, founder and president: Rob Alexander

Number of employees: 17


Rob Alexander opened Stockmens Bank in November 2008, just as Bear Stearns was failing, AIG was declared “too big to fail” and the nation’s monetary system was suffering.

It was good timing — at least in Alexander’s opinion.

“I like to open businesses at the bottom of the market,” he said. “That way, I can ride the wave up.”

He bought the building of a bank that has since failed — everything except the loans and cash and “pictures of their kids on their desk,” and purchased an available bank charter.

“We closed on Friday,” he said. “And Monday morning, three of us were here to open the bank. It was that quick. I knew that there was a downturn, but I didn’t know how bad it was going to get. I didn’t realize that our nation’s monetary system had failed.

“There were some days I wondered what I was doing — but we’ve done very well, considering the market when we started.”

Targeted lending

Five years later, Stockmens has a healthy portfolio of small business clients and agriculture loans. They do a little consumer lending, but not as much as Alexander would like. They stay away from mortgages and development loans.

“Consumer loans are hard to get into in this town,” he said. “People tend to use the credit unions for that. I think it’s because so many people are military, or have military families, so they use the credit unions.”

Stockmens is one of the few locally owned banks in Colorado Springs. The bank bills itself as a Main Street bank for Main Street businesses.

“Our commercial profile is the business with five to 25 employees, and between $250,000 and $5 million in revenue,” said business development director Jim Weller. “That’s who we focus on. We target those companies we want to do business with. We approach them. We don’t wait for them to find us.”

At a time when big banks are only getting bigger — and regulations for all banks are getting tighter — that market needs to be served the most, Alexander said.

“We are regulated just like the big guys,” he said. “And it makes it harder for smaller banks to compete. That’s why so many small banks are being bought out. I can’t afford to have two people on staff full-time just to interpret the regulations. But the big banks, they have buildings full of those people.”

Even for a small bank, Stockmens has an unusual portfolio. A rancher himself, Alexander lends money to farmers and ranchers throughout southern Colorado. About 25 percent of its loans are agriculture loans. Only one other bank in the area offers those kinds of loans, some of which are short-term lines of credit, needed to purchase feed and seed until the crops come in or the cattle are sold. Others are term loans, like mortgages.

“It’s something we’re proud to do,” he said. “We have a lot of ranching and farming experience, so we understand what the needs are.”

Much of his expertise comes from his stint as president of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, the nonprofit umbrella group that owns and operates the Norris Penrose Event Center, its managing company, the catering group at the center and six events held at the center — the Grand Prix, Cinco de Mayo, Brew Fest, Ride for the Brand Championship Ranch Rodeo, OctoberFest and the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo.

“It’s like another full-time job I don’t get paid for,” Alexander said. “But it’s something we think really benefits the community.”

Stockmens doesn’t advertise for clients, and it certainly doesn’t advertise its community service projects. All banks are involved in the community, he said, and Stockmens is local and knows full well what issues need to be resolved.

“We support the Salvation Army,” he said. “You work downtown, and you see homeless people every day. These people need help — but not just something to eat. We have to find a way to solve the underlying problem — drug addiction, mental illness. We think the Salvation Army helps the homeless about as well as anyone else. When it’s cold, they’re the ones out there with blankets and coffee.”

Stockmens is active in the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance and Pikes Peak United Way, and it sponsors many events around the city.

Just trying to help, Weller said.

“Most bankers are active in the community,” he said. “The difference here is that our clients know, usually by first name, the founder, owner and CEO. How many banks can you say that about?”

Helping customers

And even when Stockmens can’t help a fledgling business, they’ll know groups that can offer support and advice.

“The SBDC (Small Business Development Center) is one of the best resources in this town,” Weller said. “We always send people to them. And at SCORE, they have so much experience. When we can’t give someone a loan, we educate them on what they need to do, and then we send them to those organizations.”

Alexander admits his style of doing business — personally greeting customers, offering more flexibility in products — is going out of style in the banking world.

“I feel like the last guy standing, sometimes,” he said. “Small banks like ours are rare these days — and that’s kind of a shame.”