Barclay Harless: The millennial downtown banker
In a city like St. Petersburg, where young people are moving in and small businesses and startups thrive, financial needs are constantly evolving and banking is becoming more personal than ever.
That’s where Barclay Harless comes in. Harless has carved out a space for himself as the millennial downtown banker. This fifth-generation Floridian is the St. Petersburg Market Leader for Bank OZK, the only bank on Beach Drive, where he sees banking and downtown living merge.
“It’s part of the lifestyle,” said Harless of Bank OZK’s prime location. “Clients go have coffee at Cassis, they stop in to the bank, chat with the tellers. The tellers know their names, their situations, what they need. It’s all about relationships.
“Big banks have the shiny wheels. But they don’t have the relationships.”
Harless would know. A true hub in the St. Pete community, he is everywhere. He meets entrepreneurs and small business owners where they are – from breweries and kava bars (stomping grounds of St. Pete’s millennial entrepreneurs) to pitch nights, restaurant openings, and civic conversations – he keeps a blistering schedule of community events.
And he is bound and determined to keep Bank OZK ahead of the curve of financial technology, and attuned to the needs of young, entrepreneurial clients that now occupy one in six office spaces in St. Pete.
Over the past few years, Harless has watched big banks gobble up small FinTech startups in an effort to win those entrepreneurial tech clients. In his unofficial capacity as a liaison between Bank OZK’s clients and its in-house tech startup OZK Labs, Harless sees innovation as a collaborative process. “Many banks seem to be developing technology for technology’s sake,’” said Harless. “We’re taking the opposite route.”
“Our goal is to create value for our customers, and do it better than any other bank,” said Harless, “and we’re using powerful technology tools to help us do that. That’s the challenge of the next five to 20 years.”
“If you believe in the community, it means more than just taking care of loan and deposit needs,” said Harless. “It means you’re going to support the community through all kinds of activities, including serving as a conduit for businesses to support one another and for consumers in the community to support local businesses.”
When asked what motivates him to keep up his dogged efforts, the answer always comes back to people, service and his background in politics. “When I was in college, our governor was Charlie Crist, and he came to these big expensive fundraisers, I don’t know how many thousands of dollars per plate – but he would come through the kitchen. And he would greet all of the service staff. And that was something that no other governor had done and something that a lot of politicians didn’t do.”
“It’s about keeping your mindset in the right spot – it’s about the people.”
For more information about OZK Rewards, OZK Labs or any of Bank OZK’s other business efforts, contact Barclay Harless (firstname.lastname@example.org)