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Q&A: Craig Kirkland, Executive Vice President/Director of Retail Banking at Nevada State Bank and New Chair of Henderson Chamber of Commerce

Craig has over 30 years of experience in banking and is an active participant in a number of local volunteer projects.

Courtesy of Craig Kirkland

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Craig Kirkland is the Executive Vice President/Director of Retail Banking at Nevada State Bank and the new Chair of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce. He has more than 30 years of experience in banking, including positions as branch manager, regional manager and division manager. Craig is an active participant in a number of local volunteer projects. He served as the 2021-2022 Chair for the Nevada Bankers Association Board of Directors and on the Board of Directors for the Las Vegas Rescue Mission from 2008 to 2021.

1) As the new Chair of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce, what are your goals for the Chamber next year?

I’m a big proponent of helping provide access to capital for small businesses. That’s my overarching goal during my tenure, which ends in July 2023. I’m focused on how we help businesses understand what financial help is out there, and then I want to ensure they know the steps they can take to prepare themselves to obtain that capital. We’re also adding more resources and members who can help others learn about what’s available in our community, which is complimentary to what the chamber already has in place. The Henderson Chamber and its foundation operate the longest running business incubator in the state of Nevada, Launchpad. We will be focused on the center as an entrepreneurial hub for our members and the micro business community.

In addition, at its heart, the chamber is a networking organization, so I’ve tried to create more opportunities there. My predecessor created a series in which members share coffee with the chair, and I’m continuing that tradition because it makes a lot of sense to do. I’ve also added more informal opportunities for members of the board and small groups to be together so we can share ideas in different settings outside traditional board meetings. I believe this will help sustain and create more connectivity with our board members and membership at large.

I will also be very focused on representing our membership in the coming 2023 legislative session, working alongside other business interest groups to preserve our pro-business environment.

Some key risks heading into 2023 and beyond surround affordable access to the right levels of capital to support companies’ growth objectives as interest rates continue to rise. Rates are significantly higher than they've been for the past three years, making the cost to the borrower much more expensive. If you pair that with overall inflationary impacts effecting the costs of raw materials, service provider contracts, fuel, and labor, Nevada businesses will need to remain disciplined in monitoring and quantifying these impacts to adjust output prices and be realistic about future revenue projections. This will help them create strategies to address these risk factors, either by finding alternative sources of capital, or reducing expenses.

One thing that I think should be on everyone’s minds is cybersecurity. Cyber risk cannot be overstated for businesses, and it increases exponentially every few years in terms of size and scope. All businesses should have a detailed plan and dedicated teams (internal or third party) to monitor, manage, and mitigate cyber risk. Employee training needs to be a key part of any plan because what we are seeing is that the weak link in any organization are its people because it just takes one person to click a link or open a file they shouldn't that can end up costing the business thousands, or even millions. Many financial institutions offer potential solutions for businesses that can help mitigate risk.

From left to right: Craig Kirkland, Aviva Gordon, Micah Phillips, and Scott Muelrath (Courtesy of the Henderson Chamber of Commerce)

3) You have been in the banking industry for over 30 years. What was the most difficult decision you’ve made in your career so far?

I joined NSB in 2008. Navigating the recession and all of the challenges that came as a result of the economy was among the most challenging times. Businesses were struggling, other banks were closing, and the nation was hurting. In 30 years, I’ve seen the economy go through recessionary times and then bounce back, and as you can imagine there have been some extremely tough decisions that have needed to be made as a result. Whenever you’re dealing with people – clients and employees – and you have to make difficult decisions, it’s hard. The toughest decisions are always around people. You must treat people with respect and dignity all the time, every time. You also have to focus on doing business and adapting to change, which sometimes means impacting the livelihoods of people and that can be a delicate balance.

Technology will continue to be a disruptor, changing industries.  Banking is not immune from those changes. There are more and more technological solutions available as banks and fin techs (financial technology companies) press for innovation in how we as consumers make payments, move money, save, borrow, and invest. Technology is a double-edged sword – on one hand it brings banking solutions to more and more unbanked or underbanked people all over the world, and at the same time it’s accompanied by more risk and fraud. Cyber fraud is so prevalent. I wrote a Craig’s Common Cents blog article for the bank about the issue. If you’d like more information, you can access that article here.

With all of that said, we also hear from our clients that they still value relationship banking and having person-to-person interactions to understand their specific needs and wants.

5) Why is it important for business leaders to get involved in community business organizations such as the Henderson Chamber?

I think when you talk leadership you have to talk about servant leadership, which means serving others and focusing on the greater good of your community. One of my favorite leadership quotes is from Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. She said: “Leadership is a lot like being a lady. If you have to tell someone you are, you aren’t.” Leadership is humble. Among other things, leadership seeks ways to help, ways to coach, ways to develop, and ways to inspire. And what better way to get involved than to join a networking organization with like-minded people with the goals of strengthening relationships and connectivity while helping small business, which are the lifeblood of our economy.

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