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Barclay Harless wants to become ‘St. Pete’s millennial banker’

Veronica Brezina



Barclay Harless, Valley Bank's new SVP St. Pete Market Executive. Photo: B2 Communications.

Barclay Harless has carved out a niche for himself, working with young entrepreneurs to real estate developers who are reshaping St. Pete’s skyline, and now he’s stepping into a new role. 

Harless has been at the helm as the Bank OZK St. Petersburg Market Lender for seven years and has accepted a new position in leading Valley Bank’s St. Petersburg market as the SVP Market Executive. 

“Valley Bank has a strong local presence, and I have competed against them in the past [to retain clients],” Harless said. Tuesday was his first official day in the new role. 

Alan Randolph, a 30-year banking veteran who worked with Harless at Bank OZK and South Florida-based C1 Bank, connected with Harless, informing him about the new leadership position at the 4th Street location. 

“Alan was the catalyst in forming conversations between me and Valley,” Harless said. “I was thinking about the next stage of my career. I wanted to be with a bank that fits the client base I’ve created in St. Pete.” 

It’s also the next step in the fifth-generation Floridian becoming what he calls “St. Pete’s millennial banker.”

“If you are a resourceful banker, you guide people throughout their careers, helping them make decisions. I want to be St. Pete’s millennial banker. That was my ambition two years ago and it’s still my ambition today,” Harless said. 

While the position is new, Harless said he’s already been receiving calls from loyal clients. 

“It’s humbling. People get comfortable with their banker. It’s an old school attitude, especially for businesses that have a lot of moving parts, and that banker has given them sound advice,” he said. 

Harless also shared the insights of today’s banking sector and how St. Pete’s clientele has evolved: 

The responses have been edited for clarity. 

What headwinds are banks facing today?

The big banks have faults. Their bankers drive in at 9 a.m. and leave the community at 5 p.m. and have very siloed verticals, whereas regional banks have more control in a local area. The localized feel of a bank is a key driver of client acquisition. St. Pete is a great local market, and there aren’t that many big banks. But community banks are inherently small and may not have the advanced tech as the mid-size and big banks offer.

How has the typical St. Pete clientele changed? 

As the costs of living have increased, it’s bringing in different groups of people and referred clients. If you think about the post-Great Recession, people had animosity toward large banks, and during the time when people were trying to receive PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans, no one could get their big banker on the phone. It’s reinforced the needed relationships with community banks. Your business owner is changing too. We are seeing the second-generation owner take over a store and the first-generation owner becomes more of a silent partner.  

What is the motivation behind business owners seeking guidance from banks? 

Typically, it’s one of three things: They are starting a new business, they may be unsatisfied with their current institution, or they are exploring an expansion. 

When young entrepreneurs approach you, what advice are they looking for? 

A lot of times, they may have a good relationship with their banker, and as a community banker, you need to connect with experts in specialties. A legal situation or questions about taxes may surface and the client will need a good attorney or an accountant – not one that a client only talks with once a year when filing taxes. 

What is the current state of the lending environment for St. Pete developers? 

Well, the feds have exponentially increased interest rates. Property insurance rates have also increased and continue to make up a big bulk of people’s mortgage payments. When banks make cash flow analyses, they’ve seen those factors change in the last three years. In certain real estate niches like Class A office space in St. Pete, our vacancy rate is stifled at 3%, but the U.S. office market is suffering (there’s more inventory than demand). The housing market is still tight. It was wise of the city to pass the ordinance to increase accessory dwelling units. We need more housing, and we are landlocked.  

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1 Comment

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    Kari M

    May 3, 2023at9:52 pm

    Barclay is committed to his customers and clearly wants to build a working relationship not just get one loan completed. I hope millennials reach out to him and pursue their projects!

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