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Banking on Faith: Regent Bank embraces Christian identity in business

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Faith in God is a cornerstone of life for many individuals. One bank with a Springfield office embraces it as part of its unique value proposition.

Nowata, Oklahoma-based Regent Bank’s faith-based identity is front-and-center on its website, which says, “We believe our purpose is to show God’s love to our employees, clients and communities. We believe that if we do this, everything else will take care of itself.”

Locally, Regent Bank has made a $100,000 investment to back up the motto, according to Missouri Regional President Mick Nitsch, to host Faith in Business, a monthly breakfast gathering for businesspeople. Most recently, on March 12, about 100 business leaders were treated to a free buffet breakfast at the White River Conference Center. The morning gatherings, which run 7:30-9 a.m., each feature a speaker from the local business community. “We’re a faith-based business, so anything that we can do in the community to spread God’s word is something we consider very beneficial to our organization,” said Nitsch in an interview before the event.

Asked how the Faith in Business event, and the overall emphasis on the Christian faith, serves Regent Bank, Nitsch said it’s an essential part of its identity.

“It’s really catching on like wildfire,” he said of the event that launched locally in 2020. “It’s growing month by month and giving our bank more exposure to the market.”

The Regent story
The bank was established as the Bank of Nowata in Oklahoma in 1898, before that city was even incorporated, according to its website. It has been Regent Bank since 2003. Regent Capital Corp., led by Sean Kouplen and Dow Hughes, purchased the bank in 2008, and Kouplen became chair and CEO.

The Springfield branch opened in May 2018 and is led by Nitsch.

The bank, which is in seven markets, has $1.5 billion in assets, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reporting at the end of 2023. Springfield’s office holds a 1% market share in the city’s metropolitan area, with $158 million in deposits, according to the latest FDIC market share report.

Kouplen is the author, with Mick Schovanec, of “94X: Everything Changes When You Bring God Into Your Business.” The book’s premise is that people work 160 hours per month, on average, but attend church only 1.7 hours monthly – meaning they spend 94 times more time in the office than at church.

Conrad Griggs, business development representative for Regent’s Springfield office and the bank’s coordinator of the Faith in Business series, gives out a copy of the book to anyone he can.

Griggs said Kouplen also started a 94X Daily Devotional that begins each day at 8:17 a.m. Anyone can call in – the number is 888-630-4807 – and hear the message, which runs about 15 minutes. The devotionals are available through the Regent Bank site.

“We have tens of thousands of people calling in worldwide,” Griggs said. “It’s open to anybody.”

The Springfield office also has a prayer team and begins each day with a prayer, Griggs said, noting participation is not required. He said Branch Manager Cindy Harris is active on the location’s prayer team.

Harris said 94X is also the originator of the Faith in Business series, which began 10 years ago for Regent Bank in Oklahoma.

When asked if there is an element of risk in identifying so closely with a single faith tradition, Harris said risk is part of the business.

“We’re in a business that we take risks every day, making loans, depositing a check and even opening accounts,” she said. “Everything that we do, we take a risk. So why not take a risk and show people God’s love? Because God’s worth that risk.”

Faith for breakfast
The February Faith in Breakfast turnout was also strong, with 113 people attending to hear from Lisa Alexander, president of CoxHealth Foundation, Griggs said. It’s an event that seems to have outgrown its room; the April event will be in a different part of the White River center.

“Word is getting around,” Griggs said.

He said while the breakfast is a Christian event, everyone is welcome, whether they come from a different faith tradition or none at all. And the Christians present at the event cover the gamut of denominations.

It’s an attitude fostered by Kouplen in his writings and devotionals, Griggs said.

“It’s strictly the principles of Jesus,” he said. “It’s not Lutheranism, Catholicism, Baptism, any of that other stuff – it’s none of that. All of those people are welcome, because who am I to instruct the Holy Spirit what to do? I do a lot of stupid things, but I ain’t going there.”

Faith in Business breakfasts are also offered every month in Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Faithful turnout
The March 12 breakfast speaker was Doug Pitt, founder of Care to Learn, a nonprofit that meets health, hunger and hygiene needs of children, and the co-owner of Pitt Technology Group LLC, offering a broad range of information technology solutions, and Pitt Development Group LLC, which develops medical spaces.

Pitt told the audience that he originally thought he’d go into ministry.

“I guess at the end of it, we all are, right?” he said.

In faith, in business and in life, Pitt said he aims for consistency.

“I want to be the same guy on Monday that I am on Sunday,” he said. “I just try to be me, and that’s really what I’ve learned to try to lean into.”

He told the room full of professionals about some of his successes as well as some of his misses, which he said he tries to learn from and move on. He also answered questions about a lawsuit filed by Pitt Development Group against Mercy, reported upon by Springfield Business Journal on March 1. The suit alleges Mercy retaliated against Pitt Development Group for blowing the whistle on illicit behavior by a health care executive, resulting in the company losing profits for agreed-upon clinics.

Pitt said he made the decision to sue – the first time he had ever done so – and it was a difficult one.

“I know what happened, and I know in my heart that I’m right,” he said.

He added that whatever the court decides, he feels he has already won. The suit filed on Jan. 25 in Greene County Circuit Court asks for a jury trial and seeks “fair and reasonable” damages.”

“Doug’s good with Doug, and however that shakes out, that’s how you get through it,” he said.

Participants peppered Pitt with questions following his remarks, and the event dissolved slowly as people stood around in groups to visit.

Will Galyon of Springfield Parking Co. said as a Christian, he enjoys coming to the breakfasts.

“I believe in a higher power, Jesus Christ, and he has a lot of principles,” he said.

Implementing those principles – like living ethically and caring for one another – is just good business, he said.

Jeff Smith of Great River Associates Inc. is also a fan.

“I love the fact that we can bring our faith into the workplace and share who we are,” he said, adding when people go to work, they don’t have to leave parts of themselves at home. “Really, I think it just helps improve our work ethic, and it might come back to the customer.”

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