Joshua Stensrud sees a bright future for Legacy Bank, but he started with the bank at a particularly dark moment in the financial world — and right after he and his wife were hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis.
“I have a background in financial services, and we were both laid off from our jobs — 2008 for me, 2009 for my wife,” said Stensrud, now senior vice president with Legacy. “Through a previous colleague, my wife, Briana, was offered a job with the Professional Bull Riders [Association] in Pueblo. She took it and I moved up here without a job. This was in 2009 — kind of in the bottom of the financial crisis — and finding a job that aligned with my experience was difficult.
“I worked some odd jobs for a little bit until, through a mutual acquaintance, I met my now boss who is market president for Legacy Bank here in Colorado Springs. He was looking for a loan officer and, as they say, the rest is history.”
Stensrud says joining Legacy Bank was “certainly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
“We are growing. We are a healthy bank. We’ve got deep roots and a good executive leadership group that is stewarding our growth well,” he said. “We are … kind of a combination of all of those things: the experience, the history, the health, and the stability of the bank [which] really puts us in a position to grow.”
Stensrud spoke with the Business Journal about his journey in the financial sector, the economic challenges of COVID-19, and what’s on the horizon for the community-centric institution.
Tell us about your professional history at Legacy Bank.
I started at Legacy Bank in May of 2013 as a loan officer. Legacy Bank is a community bank with roots in far southeastern Colorado. It is a really good, solid community institution. ... I was very green. My only banking experience was as a user of a bank, so I learned from the ground up. I started as a loan officer, moved into a vice president’s role, again with the large majority of my responsibilities being in lending — both making new loans and managing our portfolio. In the seven and a half years I’ve been at the bank, I’ve increased in my responsibilities. I am now a member of the investment committee, which involves investing the bank’s money as a complement to our core purpose of serving the community. I went to the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Colorado in 2014, 2015 and 2016. That program is intended for community bank executives to deepen their knowledge and practical understanding of managing a bank.
What is Legacy Bank’s philosophy when it comes to interacting with the community and its customers?
We exist to serve the needs of the community. It is our strong belief that the things we do must directly benefit the needs of everybody in our communities. We’re here in Colorado Springs; we also have a presence in Pueblo, Canon City, Buena Vista, Wiley and Lamar. Each of those markets is different. Wiley, Lamar down in Powers County have a heavy ranching focus, so they exist to serve the unique needs of that community. Here in Colorado Springs, we serve everybody. Our focus and where we really excel is on the commercial side of the community. We are helping businesses with everything from operating lines of credit to financing for properties that they occupy, unique cash needs, cash management, those sorts of things. It is our strong belief that without the community, we don’t exist. We do our very best to invest our time and our efforts and our money in the places where we operate.
How does Legacy Bank interact with the community?
One of the biggest things we do every year is we are the presenting sponsor for the Women of Influence event that the Business Journal runs each year. We’ve been doing that for going on five years now and that is a big way for us to recognize and celebrate the unique contributions that the women of Colorado Springs make in our community. There are a lot of outstanding women entrepreneurs and women businesspeople in our community and that is a big way that we support the community. We are also involved in numerous sponsorship roles with organizations such as CAPS, Young Life, Rotary, and many other organizations we support in the community.
What distinguishes Legacy Bank from massive banks like Union Bank or Wells Fargo?
This city is fortunate to be served by a lot of good community banks. ... It is really true that we are customer-oriented. We take pride in the fact that someone who works with Legacy Bank knows our faces, they know our names, they know our direct phone numbers, and they know that when they need something, big or small, they can pick up the phone and call us directly and get us. The practical impact of that is all of our decisions are made here locally, which you don’t get from larger banks. We are intimately familiar with the community and its needs, its strengths and its weaknesses. We can respond in a really thorough and effective manner to whatever our customers need. It’s really just that touch. The fact that we are high touch and responsive.
Have you always wanted to go into banking and finance?
My undergrad degree is in journalism. ... I graduated in 2002. Just by happenstance, my first job out of college was in business — nothing to do with journalism. I really liked it. I liked the business world, I really got some good experience firsthand in that first job, but I lacked a business education. I went back to school at Iowa State and got an MBA to facilitate that business education. It was during my MBA program that I got exposed to financial services through a contact that I had and started to work for him. That’s what really sent me down the path of the financial world.
How has COVID-19 impacted the day-to-day of Legacy Bank?
Like for everybody, it has presented some pretty unique challenges. We’ve had to adapt to the conditions going on eight months now. But a lot of those things ... I would call them fairly superficial — meaning we’ve had to adjust how we sanitize our lobbies and we’ve got Plexiglas shields at all of stations. We’ve put all of those safety measures in place that protect bank personnel and customers. We’ve done those things, but that honestly hasn’t been that big of a deal. … Going back to our customer focus, from the start our conversation surrounding COVID and planning for operations has been completely customer focused. How can we be sure that customers are having their needs met? Practically speaking, that could be something as simple as: How can we best take a deposit for a customer and provide a safe environment for them? Kind of on the other end of the spectrum, how can we work with a borrower who has experienced a pretty seismic shift in their revenues?
What can we do to assist that borrower to lessen the impact of COVID on his or her world? A big piece of what we did was be a direct participant in the paycheck protection program. We helped facilitate about 22 million of PPP loans starting in April through August. Those loans have been a lifeline for our borrowers. That is a big practical way that we have helped. And then, moving forward given the open-ended nature of the pandemic, these are conversations that we are having internally multiple times a week. How can we help people weather this thing so when we come out on the other side they are healthy and ready to resume their lives?
What is your leadership philosophy?
I’ve never thought of it in those explicit terms, but I am very much a people-first person. That means both the people who work with the bank and for customers of the bank. Their needs come first and it is my job as a leader to do my best to meet those needs. When that sort of approach is taken, that puts people — both internal and external — in [a] position to succeed.
What motivates you in your work?
I like the challenge of it. Coming into banking seven and a half years ago, really as green as I could be … the learning curve was somewhat steep. Each day presented a bit of a different challenge, so in those early days, it was those challenges that were a big motivation. I enjoyed that. I enjoyed learning. That was a big part early on. There is still a ton to learn. Banking can go as deep as you want to take it. The steepness of the learning curve has flattened. The daily challenge of learning is still there, but one of the things I’ve enjoyed is I’ve really been able to add the component of helping people. Like I talked about earlier, [I can] help fulfill a need that contributes to a person’s success.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’ve got two young ones. I’ve got an 8-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, so they take up quite a bit of time. I spent a lot of my time chasing my boy around — trying to keep up with him. My daughter is quite involved with the Pride soccer club here in town. In rare times that I am able to carve out a few hours just for myself, I love to fly-fish.