National bank risk industry leader joins MetaBank

Aug. 1, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by MetaBank.

Brett Pharr no doubt is used to quarterback comparisons.

And in his new role at MetaBank, he is calling some critical plays. As the executive vice president of governance, risk and compliance, Pharr is the one who helps the growing finance company navigate the unique risks associated with being a cutting-edge financial services provider.

“Most people don’t choose to jump out of an airplane,” he said. “I explain to our team that we’re going to jump out of an airplane, but we’re going to have a parachute.”

Pharr brings with him a wealth of industry experience that positions him well for his new role. He spent 30 years at Bank of America, beginning as a commercial lender. He worked on 17 mergers as the bank grew nationwide and then concentrated his work on risk and compliance following Sept. 11, 2001.

He also was part of a team that ultimately helped Bank of America “clean up” what it acquired with Countrywide Mortgage following the financial crisis.

“We basically cleaned house, people and assets, and started over,” he said. “It was a true culture problem. The culture was broken, and it was hard to get it to where it needed to be.”

Based in Charlotte, N.C., his most recent role was senior risk director for Citizens Financial Group when a recruiter told him about the opportunity at Meta.

“When they called me and asked me about it, I said, ‘You want me to go where? And do what?’ ”

“I spent 30-some years at Bank of America, a $2.2 trillion bank, and four years at Citizens, which is a $150 billion bank. And Meta is a $6 billion bank. So why do you need me?”

But he listened and heard that the Meta risk profile is way higher than a normal bank – with practices in place to mitigate those risks.

“I came to understand what they were doing, and it’s pretty neat,” he said.

Those risks are part of what appeals to him about Meta and its mission.

“We have products and niches that others don’t,” he explained. “We provide services to people who might be living paycheck to paycheck or have international connections. On the commercial side, they might be businesses going through changes other people are afraid to lend to. It’s opportunities on the fringes that are new and cutting edge that might not be served by mainstream financing.”

He likes the entrepreneurial, big-thinking nature of the company, he said.

“It’s not a traditional bank. Meta tends to serve those that other banks might leave behind. And that’s a pretty cool story.”

Since he joined the team in February, Pharr said he has been impressed by the work that was already done.

“I came in thinking I was going to have to build a risk organization, and when I got here, they had already built a first-class risk organization,” he said.

“Jeanni Stahl, as chief risk officer, has done a fabulous job building that out. So I’ve put emphasis on what’s happening because of our growth. We’re facing operational risk, as well, because as you get bigger and scale, things can break faster. But that’s exciting because when you look at the company’s growth and its foreseeable earnings growth, you see how strong it is. It’s about making sure we don’t stumble. That’s my focus.”

He plans to divide his time between Sioux Falls and the Nashville area, where Meta’s Crestmark division has a commercial banking office. He said he already loves downtown Sioux Falls, where he has an apartment near Falls Park and can run along the Big Sioux River.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “And I really appreciate how Meta is willing to take risks in a controlled way and really wants to serve our partners – whether it’s our business partners in lending or in our card program. There’s a deep desire to see them be successful, and it’s pretty cool to be a part of that.”


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National bank risk industry leader joins MetaBank

His career has taken him to major financial players such as Bank of America. Now, he’s drawing on his experience as a new executive at MetaBank.

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