By: James Dornbrook, Staff Writer, Kansas City Business Journal
Kansas City-based Lead Bank has $843 million in assets, quite a bit less than the $125 billion its new CFO spent 11 years distributing out of the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.
New Lead Bank CFO Kristine Dickson most recently was CFO and COO of Lehman Brothers, helping unwind its massive holdings, a job she started in 2012 and finished in September 2022.
“It was a crazy, crazy, crazy experience,” Dickson said. “It was like running a very large hedge fund that was winding down. It was a really interesting opportunity, but at the same time, it was sort of sad in some ways. If you did your job well, you had to watch all your very talented colleagues leave and move on to other things because the job had an expiration date.”
As the finish line approached, Dickson got a call from Jacqueline Reses, whom she has known for about 20 years. Reses made a fortune as the former executive chair of San Francisco-based Square Financial Services, the small business loan division of what is now Block Inc. She led a shell company called Luna Parent Inc. that acquired Lead Bank in August. Reses asked Dickson whether she wanted to help her grow a bank.
“At first, I thought she was kidding because we had joked all the time about how we should work together someday, but she was in California, and I was in New York, so it was never convenient,” Dickson said. “So when she said that, I responded, ‘Yeah, that’s a good one.’ But she said she was serious and was about to buy a bank. I said I thought it would be amazing.”
Dickson said her time at Lehman Brothers included doing many things that were never done before. She sees Lead Bank as an opportunity to do more new and interesting things. For the past six years, she said Lead Bank has been powerfully marching down the path of “banking as a service,” which is a term for using technology to offer banking products to innovative third-party financial technology partners.
“There was already a lot of forward-thinking tech people at the bank before it was acquired,” Dickson said. “Now you add in some of the world-class talent that Jackie’s team brings to this, and it’s very exciting. There aren’t banks out there that look like us and trying to do what we’re doing. We’re thinking about out liquidity and how do we allocate our capital so that we’re enabling the growth that we want to see. There aren’t precedents for it. So that’s what makes it so interesting to me.”
Dickson said the bank has really big dreams. She sees her job as figuring out how to manage the money and give management the resources they need, while also maintaining the bank's safety and soundness and serving as the guardrail to keep it in compliance with regulators.“We have a lot of hiring to do,” Dickson said. “We’re bringing on engineers and more frontline bankers. I need to make sure we can afford to do all of that. A big part of my job is making their dreams work in a regulatory compliant way. People think that banking is staunch and rigid, where they tell you they’ll get back to you in four or five business days. That’s exactly what we’re trying to get away from. We want to work with our clients and not against them. That’s how we’re tailoring everything here.”
Dickson lives in New Jersey and comes to Kansas City every other week. She has three boys who are sports fanatics and said they’re extremely excited to visit and see a Chiefs game next season.
“My whole family is excited about this and the chance to come visit and learn a new city,” Dickson said. “I actually won some (Sporting Kansas City) tickets recently, and I told my 9-year-old, who is a huge soccer fan. He says: ‘Can I go? Can I go?’”
View full Kansas City Business Journal article here.