How did you get into your current line of work?
Ken: Like many law students, I went to law school assuming that I would spend my time in the courtroom arguing cases. Unfortunately (or, in retrospect, quite fortunately), the market for first year attorneys was very tight coming out of law school in 2005. Instead of being asked to join a firm’s litigation group, like I had hoped, I was offered a position in the banking and securities group of a Harrisburg-based regional firm having a robust banking practice. My wife and I were expecting our first child, I had student loans and rent to pay, and, since beggars can’t be choosers, I took it. Fifteen years later, I co-founded my own firm representing community banks all over Pennsylvania and New York.
Why do you think community banking is important to Pennsylvania communities?
Ken: Community banking remains important because the focus of the organization is not solely on the return to shareholders. Sure, strong financial performance is critical to any organization as it enables community banks to continue to serve their shareholders, employees, customers and communities, and otherwise control their own destiny. However, unlike regional and super-regional institutions where decisions appear to be driven by the anticipated short-term effect on the stock price, I have found that, in addition to the creation of long-term shareholder value, community banks and their employees focus a lot of time, money and energy investing in local projects, supporting local businesses, charities and building a grassroots brand. Additionally, I have found that community banks are more likely to think outside of the box and find a creative solution to a customer’s financing needs.
How does your company help make community banks successful?
Ken: At Pillar+Aught, we help community banks grow and prosper by providing sophisticated, practical legal advice, in a timely and efficient manner. We understand that, just because our client is a bank that does not mean that the client has unlimited resources to spend on its professional advisors, and we are sensitive to that fact. We also have a proven track record of supporting the charitable endeavors of our clients. In short, if it’s important to our client, it’s important to us.
Changing directions, what is in your daily media routine? (Favorite music, podcast, author, website, etc.)
Ken: I find music to be a great stress reliever and my mood drives the day’s playlist. Poppunk, hard rock and classic rock are daily must-haves, with a bit of hip-hop, metal and even jazz sprinkled in for good measure. And I don’t go on any overnight trip without my Kindle, without which I cannot fall asleep. When not reading biographies on the founding fathers, with whom I am truly fascinated, I tend to gravitate toward the likes of Tolkien and George R.R. Martin.
Where is your favorite place to visit or vacation?
Ken: My family and I love the outdoors. I grew up in northern New Jersey and we spent a lot of time camping, fishing and hunting in Stokes State Forest. The park has changed little since those days. Even to this day, my extended family and I meet once or twice a year to relive those memories and make new ones with our children. Recently, I took my family to Grand Cayman and my son and I fell in love with snorkeling, so this Christmas I enrolled us in scuba lessons. We look forward to applying what we’ve learned when we head to Fiji in June to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know.
Ken: Most people would be surprised to know that I’m a soccer-style kicker; graduated from Collier High June 1996; Stetson University honors graduate class of 2000; hold 2 NCAA Division 1 records – one for points in a season, one for distance; formerly nicknamed “The Mule”; the first and only pro-athlete ever to come out of Collier County; and one heck of a model American. (I also have an uncanny ability to remember obscure movie quotes – like that one from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – which I often interject into everyday conversation, primarily for my own amusement. While I take my work seriously, I try to keep it light in all other respects.)