In many ways, Metro Bank is a financial institution just like many others, serving the people of its community from its lone office on 12th Street in West Louisville.
It is a state-chartered bank and the only certified “Community Development Financial Institution” in Kentucky. It primarily serves small businesses, nonprofit organizations and churches in the West End, Smoketown, Shelby Park, and Phoenix Hill neighborhoods.
But unlike other banks, Metro Bank doesn’t offer checking and savings accounts, and it is not a retail bank. Also, it doesn’t advertise, so most consumers know little about Metro Bank.
“Our business comes from referrals,” Chairman, President and CEO Pedro Bryant says of the bank, which was chartered in 1997. “We have a number of small businesses with relationships for years. Forty percent of our loans are to churches, to do small to mid-size construction projects.”
One of those is the Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church on Vermont Avenue. The historic Burnett Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, which dates to 1884, moved to a sanctuary on South Hurstbourne Parkway in 2013 with the help of Metro Bank.
“We think there’s a niche for us,” says Bryant, who has been in his position since 2002. “We can’t be all things to all people. If we have a small medical group, we can meet their needs. If it’s a nonprofit, a small church, because we’re here we can help them. The key to being a successful lender is knowing the community where you’re doing business.”
Bryant, a native of southern Georgia, arrived in Louisville for the first time on a rainy day in October 2001. He liked it that the new city was bigger than Tulsa, Okla., where he had spent three years as president of American State Bank. In fact, it was bigger than most of the cities where he’d lived in Georgia and South Carolina after graduating in 1983 from Morris Brown College.
And he said he received a warm welcome from Alice Houston, a Metro Bank board member whom he originally met in Tulsa, and her husband, Wade, leaders in the West Louisville business community.
Today, he’s optimistic that the groundwork is being laid for growth in West Louisville, where Metro Bank makes 60 percent of its loans.
“There are a number of small businesses and churches that are looking to do more, but I think the driver for more retail and economic development is going to have to be an improving economy. It will lift all boats,” he says.
Bryant added that institutional growth, such as the YMCA and Passport Health Plan projects, should stimulate investors to buy into West Louisville.
“There are myriad reasons for challenges the community faces. I don’t think there’s a quick fix, and it may take maybe 10, 15, 20 years to address,” he says. “Private investors will be willing to step up and do more. No one wants to be the first, but as they see ground broken and infrastructure, that brings excitement.”