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Banking & Finance

Inside Live Oak Bank’s Leadership Change

By Jenny Callison, posted Apr 21, 2017
Scott Custer
The hiring of career banker Scott Custer as Live Oak Bank’s new president is part of the bank’s ambitious plans for growth, chairman and CEO James “Chip” Mahan said.

Bringing in Custer, who has “real depth of experience” in bank operations and acquisitions, Mahan said, frees former president Neil Underwood to focus on other major projects.

“Someday, relatively soon, we’ll overtake Wells Fargo as the largest SBA lender in the country. That comes with some political risk,” Mahan said, adding that if Wilmington- headquartered Live Oak wants to truly spread its wings and not be just an “originator of paper,” it needs to determine how to fund those new ventures.

In one revenue-enhancing initiative, Underwood and his brother Peter are working with a team of software engineers to develop “a cool set of deposit products that will operate on a common platform,” Mahan said.

Neil Underwood will remain president of the bank’s holding company, Live Oak Bancshares, and also president of Live Oak Ventures, formed by the company in August for the purpose of investing in businesses that align with the Live Oak’s strategic initiative to be a leader in financial technology.

Mahan and Custer aren’t ready to talk about specific Live Oak Ventures investments at this point, but given the success of its 2012 software spinoff, nCino, company officials are eyeing other opportunities in technology, which could be developed within Live Oak or be acquired.

Gearing up for growing and branching out requires an experienced and trusted hand in banking operations, Mahan said.

Custer, who began his banking career with Wachovia, later became a commercial banking manager with First Union National Bank. He then served as chairman and CEO of RBC Bank (USA), overseeing a period of expansion and a doubling of the bank’s assets to $30 billion.

Custer became a director and CEO of Piedmont Community Bank Holdings Inc. in 2010.

The next year, he became a director and CEO of VantageSouth Bancshares Inc. and VantageSouth Bank, serving in that capacity until the merger of Yadkin, VantageSouth and Piedmont in 2014.

Under Custer’s leadership, Yadkin and its predecessors grew from a startup bank in 2010 to assets of about $7.5 billion before its merger, which was finalized in March, with F.N.B., according to officials.

He served briefly as a consultant to and director of F.N.B. before joining Live Oak Bank earlier this month.

That kind of experience will be valuable to Live Oak Bank, Mahan said.

“It’s our belief we can become a $10 billion to $100 billion bank, depending on your time frame,” he said. “We need some help from somebody who’s done it before. Scott and I have been really close friends for almost 40 years. Scott’s success is documented.”

Custer said the position at Live Oak Bank was a chance to continue his career with people he respects and with whom he shares a long history.

“It also happens to be right where I live,” Custer added. “Combine those things, and hopefully I add a little value. Take what I have done in my past and marry that with what’s going on at Live Oak.

“Things that Chip and Neil are working on clearly could be a turning point for Live Oak. I can fill in some gaps, maybe, being an operating guy. Chip’s as good a visionary leader as anybody in the country. Neil is bringing that vision to life. I operate the banking business. We can divide and conquer.”

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