Biltmore Bank - AZ Business Magazine May/June 2012

Father-Son Bank On Arizona Business

Family-built Biltmore Bank of Arizona has assets totaling more than $260 million

The Lehmann family has a lot of baggage.

“When I finished grad school back in 1969, I got two job offers,” says Richard J. Lehmann. “One was with Ford Motor Company; the other with Citibank.”

The banking gig, however, meant moving to Europe, which actually sealed the deal.

“I was lucky enough to study abroad — and bum around Europe — while still in school, and both my wife and I are always up for adventure,” Lehmann says.

Over the next seven years, Lehmann’s rapidly growing career took him from Hamburg to Düsseldorf to Frankfurt to Kronberg, where his youngest son, Greg, was born. With two young children and extended family a continent away, the Lehmann family moved back to the U.S. in 1977, with Lehmann still focusing on international banking.

“Talk about a commute,” Lehmann says.

But the move wouldn’t take, just yet, and the family was back on the move in 1985 when Lehmann packed their bags for London to take a position overseeing all Middle East, European and African clients for Citibank.

Arizona, however, would eventually come calling.

The family finally unpacked its bags in Arizona in 1988, when Lehmann became chairman and CEO of Valley National Bank.

But just as the elder Lehmann was unpacking his bags in the Valley, youngest son Greg was picking up and moving to Vermont to study anthology in college.

While there, just as his father did, Greg spent a semester studying overseas (Asia), where he would return after graduation to volunteer with the building of schoolhouses in the developing nation of Nepal. Motivated, but lonely living alone in a small Nepalese village, Greg moved to New York City in the 1990s and took a job in advertising with such brands as Mercedes Benz and MLB, and then one with an Internet company. He even helped re-brand the Cleveland Cavaliers when LeBron James was drafted.

By the early 2000s, with dad retired (and unretired) most recently from Bank One, where he worked as the bank’s president and COO, Greg was busy, too — getting married and starting a family in New York.

And then everything changed.

When Richard hosted his son’s family for Christmas in the early 2000s, he made a singular comment: “So, I am thinking of starting a bank.”

“Floored, my initial reaction was ‘Yeah sure, Dad.’ But as Christmas gave way to the New Year, I saw he was serious — and serious about recruiting me.”

By 2003, Richard and long-time colleague Jeffrey Gaia, with others, began planting the seeds for the Biltmore Bank of Arizona. After a lifetime of servicing some of the biggest businesses across the globe, Lehmann wanted to get personal.

“Truly understanding the needs of Arizona businesses and working with them face-to-face to ensure exceptional client service is our singular focus,” Richard says. “We wanted to be a part of each of our client’s growth — and the growth of the Arizona economy.”

Inspired, Greg packed his family’s bags and moved to the Valley for good in 2004, helping to launch the Biltmore Bank of Arizona with his father.

The father-son team proved a perfect fit. The Biltmore Bank now has two locations, 50 employees and assets totaling more than $260 million. They service hundreds of businesses in Arizona each day through customized loan solutions, SBA lending, treasury management, business checking, and online and mobile banking.

While other banks have closed in recent years due to the sagging economy, Biltmore has flourished, most recently receiving a cash infusion from Grandpoint Financial that will allow them to grow and invest with its current and prospective clients and consider possible acquisitions in the future.

“In order for us to support the continued growth, we need to have a strong balance sheet and a formidable capital position,” Richard says. “Arizona businesses will bounce back, and now we have the capital to help them.”

For more information on Biltmore Bank, visit Biltmore Bank’s website at biltmorebankaz.com.

Arizona Business Magazine May/June 2012