Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

The Entrepreneur's Banker: Earl McVicker Is at Home Talking about Investments, Motorcycles, or Credit Unions. Meet ABA's Next Chairman

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

The Entrepreneur's Banker: Earl McVicker Is at Home Talking about Investments, Motorcycles, or Credit Unions. Meet ABA's Next Chairman

Article excerpt

Warren Buffett's financial acumen is legendary. The "Sage of Omaha," one of several similar titles by which Buffet is known, makes his home in the eastern Nebraska city. About 200 miles to the south west, in Hutchinson, Kan., lives another, somewhat-less-well-known Midwestern investor, Earl McVicker.

It may come as something of a surprise, but since 1992, McVicker's private investment company, Central Financial Corp., has outperformed Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway, not to mention the Dow and the S&P 500.

Strictly speaking, Central Financial is a bank holding company, but 60% of the company's assets are invested in ten out-of-state community banks. Since 1992 the company has invested in 18 banks in 11 states. Some banks have been sold over that time, including, earlier this year, Bank of Nevada, Las Vegas, which netted Central a substantial gain. The strategy has helped the company's shares earn a 22% compounded annual rate of return since McVicker initiated the program in 1992.

Like many out-of-the way places across America, the small heartland city of Hutchinson has its share of the surprises and Central Financial s investment operation is one of them. Beyond the world of finance, who would expect to find the actual Apollo 13 lunar capsule in the middle of Kansas? But there it sits in an impressive Smithsonian-affiliated museum called the Kansas Cosmosphere, surrounded by artifacts from the Space Race. The city's massive grain elevators looming 25 stories high are not a surprise--this is Kansas, after all, bread basket to the world--but unless you're a serious golfer, you wouldn't suspect there would be a world-class golf course out here on the prairie. But there is. The Prairie Dunes Country Club, host to this year's U.S. Senior Open, nestles among the sand hills at the edge of town, looking for all the world like a Scottish links course. And who knew that "Hutch," as locals affectionately abbreviate the place, at one time was one of the world's largest suppliers of salt, mined from vast underground deposits?

McVicker himself will surprise you. When he's not tending his investments, running his bank, or working at his parents' ranch or on his own six acres, the community banker likes to relax by taking his Harley-Davidson out for a spin.

Welcome to the surprising world of Earl McVicker.

WANTED: JOB SECURITY

Appearances are not always deceiving. Earl McVicker, for example, has three personas. Put a Stetson on him and he looks like he stepped out of an old Marlboro ad. Put a black T-shirt, shades, and jeans on him and he's a biker, comfortable mingling with the Harley crowd in Sturgis, S.D. When he puts on a suit and tie, McVicker's the buttoned-down banker, talking knowledgeably about margins, deposit insurance, or Basel 1A.

Each of the three, it turns out, is the real McCoy, er, McVicker.

ABA's next chairman grew up on a western Kansas grain and livestock farm where his parents still live. He and his wife, Molly, own two horses and have ridden all their lives. But he's also been riding motorized, two-wheeled forms of transportation since he was 12. As for banking, it's what McVicker has always done for a living, becoming CEO for the first time in 1983.

"Earl's a well-rounded guy," says his friend and fellow banker, Albert C. "Kell" Kelly, CEO of SpiritBank, Bristow, Okla.

He's also an independent Westerner, more reserved than loquacious, but not above pulling your leg with a straight face, once he gets to know you.

That streak of independence loomed large in his banking career, and in his unusual bank investment strategy.

Like many people, McVicker stumbled into his life's work through a side door. At Kansas State University he earned an engineering degree because he wanted to design agricultural machinery. He also took some business courses and had two years of ROTC training. Upon graduating in 1971, with a medical condition keeping him out of the Army, newly married, and with few prospects for work in agricultural engineering, he took a job at Bazine (Kan. …

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