Large community banks are able to offer clients the best of both worlds: highly personalized service, as well as the latest banking services and technology. Jeff Kagey, vice president of corporate real estate and facilities at LegacyTexas, a Plano, Texas-based community bank about 15 minutes north of Dallas, is responsible for the bank’s corporate real estate, facilities, vendor negotiations, and purchasing operations across North Texas.
When American Builders Quarterly sat down with Kagey, he explained that his introduction to the banking industry was the result of being in the wrong place at the right time. Kagey was exploring potential career paths as an alternative to college when he walked into what he thought was an employment agency office. It turned out, however, to be the headquarters of Pioneer Savings Bank in Lynnwood, Washington. Too embarrassed to leave, he decided to complete an application and walked out with no real expectations.
Days later, Kagey was hired as a part-time teller, and the following year, he was approached by his manager regarding a promotional opportunity within the purchasing department. Kagey accepted, and over a five-year span, he worked his way up to purchasing manager with the responsibility of overseeing a $900 million bank. The bank eventually merged with Washington Mutual and he became a casualty of the merger.
However, Kagey made another unlikely decision that ended up influencing his career path: He entered a speech contest held at a national convention sponsored by the National Institute of Financial Education.
At the convention, contestants were asked to introduce themselves, and true to form, Kagey used the opportunity to give an “elevator pitch” once he commanded the stage.
“I had an opportunity to introduce myself in front of an audience of bankers from all over the country,” Kagey recalls. “I said, ‘The bank I worked at was just bought out. If anyone’s hiring, let me know.’ Afterward, a gentleman walked up to me, handed me his business card, and told me to call him.”
That gentleman was the president and CEO of Anchor Savings Bank, located along the coast of Washington—Kagey’s home state.
Over the next four years, he was introduced to construction administration and initiated the implementation of a standardized procurement process that had not previously existed at the bank. Interested in the challenge, he increased his responsibilities and made a meaningful difference in the large organization.
Kagey then accepted the purchasing manager position at InterWest Bank in Oak Harbor, Washington, where he managed, implemented, and improved procurement processes. He also created cost savings by identifying and eliminating waste and unnecessary business tasks for the $2.5 billion financial institution.
In 1999, Kagey had an opportunity to pursue a career in an industry outside of banking. He served as purchasing manager of an international environmental consulting firm and an industry leading merchandise agency until his career was directly impacted by the events of 9/11. Along with many others, he found himself unemployed and in the challenging situation of finding a job in an unexpected economy with uncertain times.
Deciding to return to his roots in the financial services industry, he focused his efforts on medium- to large-size banks. He took the unconventional method of mailing marketing letters in lieu of résumés to presidents and CEOs of banks on his short list. After nine months, he accepted a purchasing and facilities management position at AmericanWest Bank in Spokane, Washington, whose footprint grew from 32 to 66 branches across Washington, Idaho, and Utah, as well as two home office locations. While there, he managed bank leases and owned real estate, occupancy, insurance, construction, relocation, renovation, maintenance, vendor relations, and procurement processes.
As it turns out, Kagey had found a great job that was an ideal fit. The opportunity allowed him to be impactful and effect change in the organization, adding value through his strong business and analytical expertise, inventive implementation strategies, and effective management skills. However, the other Kagey in this story had a different opinion.
“My wife is from Texas, and after five years in Spokane, she was beyond homesick,” he says. “I made the mistake of telling her, ‘If you can find me a job in Dallas that’s comparable or better to what I’m currently doing, then we’ll move.’ Guess what? She found me a job in Dallas.”
In 2007, Kagey accepted a position at ViewPoint Bank in Plano as vice president of facilities, which developed into vice president of corporate real estate and facilities. In 2015, ViewPoint Bank merged with another North Texas community bank, LegacyTexas.
“I’ve discovered throughout the years that my niche is to establish non-existing processes and improve upon existing corporate services that afford me the opportunity to add value to an organization through a positive and impactful approach,” he says.
One of the most pioneering and impressive additions Kagey has been a part of involved maximizing the bank’s real estate portfolio and leveraging underutilized office space. The result was the LegacyTexas Business Center—a modern, multi-use meeting and workspace facility that is available to bank clients, nonprofit organizations, and the business community.
“We partnered with the Plano Chamber of Commerce on a multiyear agreement with the bank,” Kagey says. “The chamber will use 25 percent of the 10,000-square-foot shared space for its offices and manage and maintain the LegacyTexas Business Center, which features a conference room for up to 150, several smaller meeting areas, benching workstation for individuals, a kitchen, and coffee bar.”
Kagey adds that some of the conveniences also include high-speed Wi-Fi and access to a printer/copier/scanner and shredder. It’s also ideal for small business owners and employees who normally work from home, or in need of a local coffee shop to meet with clients and other professionals. “We’ve created a collision point for interaction between entrepreneurs and business development,” Kagey says.
While the company waits for the success of that project to arrive, Kagey can give himself a pat on the back for adding diversity to LegacyTexas’ networking catalog.
“Today’s working world contains a variety of generations of people. They all have different preferences for how they want to work,” he says. “That’s a challenge for the facilities team because you have to find the perfect balance of open and private spaces and collision points, like meeting rooms and impromptu social areas. I want to make sure the space we provide aligns with what everyone needs.”
His ongoing projects and challenges involve morphing those ideas into the bank’s 44 branches and three corporate offices, which amounts to 450,000 square feet. The first branch designed under the re-branded LegacyTexas name opened in October 2016, and future branch renovations will follow this design concept. Kagey is responsible for giving these acquired locations LegacyTexas branding and appeal, but his main inspiration for doing so is the people who make the bank run.
“I’m working to grant the best LegacyTexas locations possible to our front-end employees and give them a workplace they’re proud of. I don’t think a branch defines a bank, no matter what work was done in revamping or remodeling it. The front-end employees at our company are side by side with our customers to make sure all their needs are fulfilled, whether it’s for a personal or business account,” he says.
Kagey says his goal is to provide LegacyTexas employees with the best locations possible. “Whether they’re on the front line or behind the scenes, I want to create a workspace they’re proud of. It’s not a remodel or relocation that defines a bank—it’s the employees that serve their clients and communities,” he says.
While Kagey will always have an endless priority list to give LegacyTexas the face it deserves, he continuously strives to better himself for what he’s doing.
“I want to continue to challenge myself and my team because there are always opportunities to improve,” he says. “Facilities is not just the real estate management and corporate services—it’s all the moving parts coming together in a coordinated fashion to produce an end result that everyone is proud of.”