The CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER FOR CROSSFIRST HOLDINGS, A Member of the Class of 2004, HAS GUIDED THE BANK FROM FLEDGLING START-UP TO ONE OF THE REGION’S FINANCIAL SERVICES PILLARS.
Before he was a banker, before he was a lawyer, Mike Maddox was at his core a competitor. That drive compelled him to leave his native Oklahoma, where he had a standout high school basketball career, to challenge himself against the best at the University of Kansas. And in his four years there, he learned about the price to be paid for competing at the highest levels.
He left Lawrence with two Final Fours on his resume, one national championship (1988) and one near-miss, in the 1991 championship game against Duke. And for much of that time, Maddox was playing through the pain of a chronic back condition that limited his movement.
So he came into the business world hard-wired to achieve. That’s what earned him a spot on the 2004 roster of 40 Under Forty, when he was the Kansas City-area market president for Wichita-based INTRUST Bank. In 2007, a group of investors launched CrossFirst Bank, then brought him on board in 2008, about the time the nation’s financial-services sector was flirting with disaster.
“We had a unique opportunity to take advantage of having a healthy balance sheet,” Maddox says. “A lot of other banks had to shrink. But a big part of it was hiring really good bankers, working hard and hustling, taking care of our clients, and being laser focused on business. We also had a great shareholder base that was also a great referral source for us.”
It’s safe to say that no other bank in this region—perhaps the nation—has grown faster, longer and more consistently in the years since. Today, CrossFirst is the fourth-largest bank based in Kansas City region, with $6.6 billion in assets through the end of 2022. By that measurement, it was surpassed only by UMB, Commerce and Capitol Federal—all of which have histories that go back well more than a century.
His track record of success has earned Maddox a seat in Ingram’s 40 Under Forty Alumni of the Year program, joining some of the biggest names in regional business to earn that designation since 2016: Gordon Lansford of J.E. Dunn Construction, Greg Maday of SpecChem and Sporting Kansas City; Anne St. Peter of Global Prairie, Neal Sharma of Digital Evolution Group, Peter Mallouk of Creative Planning, Kevin Barth of Commerce Bank, and Debbie Wilkerson of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.
Maddox’s basketball days are over, but the lessons he took from them continue to shape his leadership today.
“Getting the opportunity to play at that level, you really figure out how hard you can push yourself,” says Maddox. “I was fortunate to play for great coaches, and they did a great job of pushing me, frankly, farther than I thought I could go. We all want to do things for the team, and with me, especially in my senior year, when the back problem became the worst. But it taught me how to fight through adversity.”
With three degenerative discs and another bulging—at age 22—Maddox looked down the road and saw his future in business, then law, with degrees in each field. After a few years in private practice in Lawrence, INTRUST Bank made him manager of two branches, and two years later, gave him the reigns to the northeast Kansas market.
CrossFirst under his leadership now goes head to head with the biggest banks in the region. At the same time, as pillars of the nation’s financial system are being shaken with instability, lessons from his playing days still hold their value.
“It’s like going back to basketball,” Maddox says. “If the other team is playing a zone defense, you’ve got to adjust your offense to take advantage of the opportunities that presents. The environment is changing for all the banks, and I think any time there’s disruption, opportunities get created. It’s incumbent upon leaders and management teams to assess all the risks and opportunities, then position the company to take advantage. And I think some will be created.”