Member preview

“Your Bigger Future Is Only Limited To How Far You Can Stretch Your Abundant Mindset” With David Reiling

“Your bigger future is only limited to how far you can stretch your abundant mindset. Think big and remember no one will never talk about how much money you made at your funeral. Leave the world a better place because you lived.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing David Reiling, Chairman and CEO of Sunrise Banks who is a social entrepreneur with a long history of innovation in community development finance. David has been recognized by Trust Across America as one of “Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business” for the past five years receiving a lifetime achievement award in 2018, earned an Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and earned the Corporate Citizenship Award from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Corporate Citizenship. He is a recognized leader in opening the doors of financial inclusion and financial wellness. David has built his social enterprise on the premise that everyone can gain access to convenient, transparent and reasonably-priced financial services nationally and globally.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

Well, my interest in banking started when I was a teller one summer while home from college. I loved it! Being face-to-face with customers and their money in a busy urban bank that summer was thrilling. After I graduated, I went to work full-time for First Interstate bank in LA. During my first two weeks on the job, the bank branch I was in was robbed three times. I thought this was normal given my summer experience. The district manager was impressed with the way I handled myself and the situation and promptly transferred me to South Central LA, the bank robbery capital of the world. Every day was exciting in South Central, between customers, riots, gangs, robberies, and an occasional earthquake there was never a dull moment. After being in one to many threatening encounters, I decided it was time to stop pushing my luck. I moved on to Citibank in Downtown LA where I had lots of experience including, international banking experience. After a while, I was nominated for a promotion in New York. Before I could leave, my dad asked if I was interested in an opportunity to buy a bank in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul, MN and I took it. At first, we mainly worked in that neighborhood, helping Hmong immigrant families to get houses, start businesses and thrive in the US. We embraced the philosophy that if our community succeeds the bank will succeed. The mindset of helping others succeed is still at the core of what we do today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

I have many stories but the scariest and most memorable moment is when I stepped on a chicken…unknowingly! I was touring a house which we were looking to finance the rehabilitation. There was a tenant living in the house but not home at that time. The landlord (our prospective borrower) let me in to look at the condition of the house. I walked down a small dark stairway to the basement. I didn’t see, smell, hear, or feel any presence of an animal until I took the last step off the stairway right on top of the chicken. The bird flushed up into my face in an instant. I reeled back up the steps screaming.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We’re always looking to innovate and learn new ways that we can expand access to financial wellness. To do that we need to dig in and take time to listen to the needs of our community and beyond. In the early days of Sunrise, we bought a local check casher. We wanted to know what their business structure was like, and why so many people would go there instead of a bank, knowing that their fees were so high. We learned that many people who went to check cashers and payday loan shops turn there for three main reasons; first, their credit history restricts the access they have to lending options, second, check cashers offer a more casual and familiar access point, banks are too formal, and last, the ease of securing a payday loan, the process for securing loans at banks is traditionally longer and requires much more input and then more waiting for the funds to be ready. Making sure to meet our customers where they are and make them feel welcome no matter the size of their accounts is incredibly important.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

We encourage our team to “fail fast and fail smart.” Don’t be afraid to try something new and think outside the box. When and if that idea fails, take your learnings and move on. Use those lessons to keep tweaking your products and processes to make sure they are the best they can be.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My father taught me a lot about caring for the little guy….the small business, the no name church, the local food shelf or homeless shelter. He was, and still is, a champion for the less fortunate. He would say, the little guy gets screwed — a lot. It is expensive to be poor. You don’t have to give them a better deal just make sure you give them a fair deal.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

For me, using my skills to spread goodness began in college. I volunteered leading a team of students to build houses in Tijuana, Mexico. Bringing that team together to make a big impact in the life of a single mom with kids stuck with me and inspired me to bring others together throughout my career for the greater good. When it comes to Sunrise, there is a huge opportunity for financial institutions to make large-scale positive change possible. Using my success in banking and finance as well as the team and partnerships we have built, we can all work together to support the next generation of entrepreneurs supporting financial wellness.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why.

This is a tough question. I never saw myself in any other role but being the leader. I wish someone would have told me “5 things brilliant things before I became an entrepreneur”

  1. You will work every hour of the day in every position in your company at some time in its evolution. Be humble and thankful for the people that work with you.
  2. Your bigger future is only limited to how far you can stretch your abundant mindset. Think big and remember no one will never talk about how much money you made at your funeral. Leave the world a better place because you lived.
  3. Build a uniquely talented team with a rich culture of caring achievement and you will change the world. People work for a financial and emotional paycheck. Meaning and purpose of your work is as important as a paycheck in the long run.
  4. Know thyself — what is truly important to you? By the way — money is not the answer, look deeper.
  5. Fear and excitement are the two best motivators. I think this is the definition of an entrepreneur’s life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech really resonates with me; it speaks about the importance of action. Getting involved in a cause and failing is always better than sitting on the sidelines and watching.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this.

I would love to share a meal with Jeff Bezos — Amazon CEO. I would discuss how, through collaboration, we could change the world of financial services for “good” and for “everyone.”