Brad Elliott: Shaping the Future of Community Banking with Equity Bank

Top 10 CEOs Redefining Business in 2023

Brad Elliott, a visionary leader, and the driving force behind Equity Bank, has been recognized as one of the “Top 10 CEOs Redefining Business in 2023.” As the Chairman and CEO of Equity Bank (listed on the NYSE), a thriving community bank headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, Elliott has overseen the bank’s remarkable growth since its inception in 2002. With an expanding footprint in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas, Equity Bank has become a beacon of personalized community banking services while consolidating regional banks to build a strong community bank offering sophisticated electronic solutions and highly customized commercial services.

Elliott’s strategic insight and commitment to the bank’s expansion have been paramount to its success. In 2015, the company completed its initial public offering (IPO) and followed with a series of acquisitions of community banks within Equity Bank’s four-state footprint. A prominent figure in local media, Elliott frequently shares insights on community banking issues and has served on various industry, college, and community boards.

As the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Equity Bancshares, Inc., Elliott’s financial services experience, especially in lending and asset liability management, has proven invaluable to the company’s board of directors. In addition, his deep understanding of the company’s business and operations, his expertise in risk and operations management, and strategic planning have been instrumental in implementing the business strategy and integrating growth opportunities.

Before establishing Equity Bank, Elliott held notable positions in his career, including President of Sunflower Bank and Director of Marketing for Koch Industries, a privately held multinational corporation based in Wichita, Kansas. He graduated from McPherson College in 1989 with a Bachelor of Science in Business Finance and Management and later completed the prestigious Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Georgetown University in 2002.

Elliott’s impressive track record of service extends beyond the realm of business. He has contributed his time and expertise to various organizations, including the Wichita Area Chamber of Commerce, Wichita State University Shocker Athletic Scholarship Organization, PCS Advisory Board, Via Christi Health, and the Kansas Bankers Association. As Equity Bank continues to flourish under Elliott’s leadership, he remains a shining example of how perseverance, strategic thinking, and dedication can redefine the business landscape.


Balancing Ambition and Adaptability in Achieving Success as a Leader

Elliott believes that success for leaders is often defined by their ability to articulate a clear strategy and vision, then mobilize the necessary resources to bring that vision to life. Although results and processes may take unexpected turns, leaders must set ambitious goals and prioritize decisive action.

It is common for even well-planned initiatives to encounter setbacks or failures. However, Elliott emphasizes that successful leaders are resilient to learn from these experiences, using them to refine their approach and persevere toward their objectives. Elliott points out that the true hallmark of success is the unwavering determination to focus on a target and relentlessly pursue its realization, regardless of the challenges encountered. It’s through the pursuit of a greater goal that a leader is able to empower colleagues and team members.

Navigating Growth and Expansion: Equity Bank under Elliott’s Leadership

Under Elliott’s leadership, Equity Bank has evolved into a comprehensive community banking institution with a strong presence across four states, including Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Initially founded in Andover, Kansas, within the Wichita metropolitan area, Equity Bank has grown over the past two decades, and now includes 66 branches and comprises more than $5 billion in assets.

This growth can be attributed to a combination of strategic mergers, acquisitions, and the nurturing of customer relationships.

Elliott’s Innovative Approach: Fostering Success at Equity Bank

Over the past two decades, Elliott has played a crucial role in establishing Equity Bank as a leader in the banking and finance industry. He has consistently focused on delivering highly tailored and sophisticated banking solutions to local commercial customers. Elliott’s vision was to compete by offering personalized services to business customers, addressing their needs, and supporting the local community simultaneously.

This approach has become a core element of Equity Bank’s mission and vision, enabling the bank to redefine the industry by providing exceptional entrepreneurial support to diverse businesses. As the bank’s assets have grown to $5 billion, this commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship has attracted top talent from various industries. These professionals share the spirit of collaboration, knowing they can make a genuine difference for each other and their customers.

Elliott’s emphasis on thinking and acting like their customers in all markets has positioned Equity Bank as the go-to financial institution for entrepreneurs and visionaries across various industries.

Redefining the Banking Landscape

Over the past two decades, Elliott’s expertise has been crucial in shaping Equity Bank’s growth and success. With a vision to deliver sophisticated banking solutions to local commercial customers, Brad sought to differentiate the bank through a commitment to providing tailored, locally focused services that catered to business clients’ needs while also nurturing the community. This core feature of the bank’s mission and vision has redefined the banking and finance industry, positioning Equity Bank as a provider of entrepreneurial support to diverse businesses.

Dedication to innovation and entrepreneurship has helped Equity Bank attract top-tier talent from various sectors, including innovation and information technology. Professionals are often drawn to Equity Bank’s innovative spirit and collaborative atmosphere; confident they can make a real impact on their colleagues and clients. Elliott believes the key to the bank’s success lies in its unique customer-centric approach: “Thinking and acting like our customers in all markets we serve has helped position us as a bank for entrepreneurs and visionaries,” he explained.

This customer-centric philosophy, guided by Elliott’s leadership, has cemented Equity Bank’s status as the go-to financial institution for business visionaries from various industries.

Overcoming Roadblocks: Trust, Alignment, and Lessons Learned

Elliott has faced various roadblocks throughout his professional journey, each providing valuable lessons that have shaped him as a leader. One obstacle led him to appreciate the importance of selecting the right talent and strategizing effectively for every project, venture, or journey. Over a decade ago, Equity Bank acquired a large mortgage platform, significantly expanding its customer base and loan relationships. However, post-acquisition, it became apparent that, despite having a sound strategy, the acquired team’s values needed to be aligned with the bank’s core principles.

The acquired team possessed the necessary expertise, but their approach to relationships, profit, and compliance starkly contrasted Equity Bank’s philosophy. Consequently, the bank decided to exit a portion of the vertical, ultimately learning valuable lessons about the significance of organizational culture. Elliott emphasizes that leaders must ensure a clear strategy and value statement for every undertaking. He also stresses the importance of trust and alignment, stating that “a leader must have faith in the people they are doing business with, working with, and ensure they are fully aligned on vision and values.”

Milestones and Recognition: Elliott’s IPO Triumph and Investor Support

Elliott’s fascination with banking and leadership began during college when he interned at a local bank. In addition, he invested $1,000 in the same bank as part of a capital raise. Within a few years, that investment grew to $10,000, sparking his curiosity. Elliott recognized that a bank could grow and generate returns for all its stakeholders by creating value for customers, team members, and communities.

As for the most significant recognition in his career, Elliott points to Equity Bank’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 2015 as a milestone. The trust and commitment of the capital investors, who were satisfied with the bank’s performance and growth, and believed in taking the company public, was a testament to his leadership. In addition, the support and confidence of the investor community, including those who began their journey with him when he started building Equity Bank and continue to serve as directors and stockholders today, hold immense significance for Elliott.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit: Brad Elliott’s Approach to Leading Equity Bank

As Chairman and CEO of Equity Bank, Elliott is responsible for setting the company’s direction and vision. Ensuring the bank remains relevant to its customers and earning their trust daily is paramount. To maintain that relevance, a leader must foster innovation and creativity and invest in cutting-edge technology that enhances efficiency and appeals to the customers.

Embodying the entrepreneurial spirit, a core value of Equity Bank, Elliott works diligently to empower and inspire the leaders and team members within the organization. It empowers them to innovate and collaborate for the benefit of the customers and the bank.

The Journey to Equity Bank: Elliott’s Entrepreneurial Mindset and Aspirations

Elliott can be defined in one word as entrepreneurial and has always been driven by innovation and dreams. This focus and trait were with him even before his journey with Equity Bank began. His entrepreneurial spirit is at the core of his desire to create value for others, including satisfied customers, team members, and shareholders. In addition, he believes in working collectively for the benefit of the entire group.

Elliott states, “If your only mission is to create value for yourself, it will be unfulfilling. However, suppose you can bring others along and create an environment of prosperity. In that case, you are now building an institution with a larger purpose that works to achieve the success and strategic plan of the organization.”

This perspective encapsulates the essence of his entrepreneurial mindset, which he continues to embody as the leader of Equity Bank.

Striking a Balance: Elliott’s Approach to Personal and Professional Life

Achieving equilibrium between personal and professional life is a challenge many face, and Elliott is no exception. As a leader, he understands the importance of setting boundaries and parameters to maintain that balance, even though it’s easier said than done. He acknowledges that family priorities sometimes conflict with professional obligations and vice versa.

Elliott emphasizes the need for understanding and clarity, recognizing that occasionally sacrifices must be made on one side or the other in pursuit of a greater goal. By maintaining this mindset, he manages to keep the tug-of-war between personal and professional life in check, ensuring a harmonious existence as a leader in the banking industry.

The Power of Momentum: Elliott’s Strategy for Motivating His Team

Elliott believes maintaining continuous momentum and setting consistent targets to achieve a common goal is critical to motivating himself and his employees. He acknowledges that targets may sometimes shift or change. Still, it is the responsibility of leadership to focus on the more significant milestones ahead and help team members envision more significant possibilities for themselves.

Challenging and lengthy projects can be daunting, but they often present opportunities for growth and development for leaders like Chief Information Officers, Directors of Data Intelligence, Regional CEOs, or Chief Technology Officers. By uncovering these opportunities, leaders can propel their careers and the success of their teams and the company.

The Digital Revolution: Elliott’s Take on Technology’s Impact on Banking and Finance

In Elliott’s view, technology has rapidly become a driving force in the banking and finance industry, transforming how customers interact with their financial institutions. In the past, customers could only check their balances and transactions through local phone numbers. Today, within just 25 years, instant access and self-service tools have revolutionized the banking experience for the better.

This increased awareness and education among customers allow financial brands to guide them in making informed decisions about their capital, money management, and expense reconciliation. Technology can strengthen customer loyalty, but it also highlights the importance of reputation and communication. As evidenced in early March, when two national banks failed due to questionable actions, customers used their instant access to withdraw funds, demonstrating the power of technology in shaping customer trust.

“Technology has increased visibility between financial institutions and their customers,” said Elliott, “and improved loyalty and trust when tools and communication effectively meet customer needs.”

Unleashing Innovation: How Elliott Cultivates a Progressive Environment at Equity Bank?

Elliott believes innovation flourishes when team members are fully invested in a shared vision and committed to creating better opportunities for one another and their customers. People may resist change, but the leader must pave the way forward and establish clear goals. He has found that when entrepreneurial employees are empowered to make a positive impact on their colleagues and customers, it ultimately contributes to building a better organization for everyone.

Equity Bank’s Bold Future: Pursuing Excellence in Finance

As Elliott reflects on the early ambitions of Equity Bank, he is proud of the progress made toward creating value for customers, employees, and investors. Elliott believes the bank is still in its formative stages as a brand. He envisions a bright future for Equity Bank, with a focus on continuous growth and relevance for its clientele.

In the years to come, Equity Bank will prioritize investments in technology, human resources, and its platform to maintain a competitive edge. This commitment to innovation will enable the bank to attract and retain customers, talent, and stockholders, fostering a thriving ecosystem around its brand.

Looking forward, Elliott anticipates that Equity Bank will solidify its position as a regional consolidator, attracting regional banking brands seeking efficiency and scale to deliver to customer bases. Elliott also expects that Equity will continue to expand its customer base organically in within its four-state footprint. In addition, the bank’s current size and innovation capabilities will serve as a magnet for exceptional individuals from various backgrounds, including technology, business, and entrepreneurship.

As Equity Bank continues to develop its brand and strengthen its presence in the market, Elliott is confident that the organization will remain an inspiring and relevant resource for customers, team members, communities, and stockholders.

Dare to Lead: Elliott’s Message for the Next Generation of Business Innovators

Elliott encourages aspiring business leaders to embrace boldness, believing that fearlessness and unwavering commitment to one’s vision are essential for success. In addition, he emphasizes the importance of being accountable, available, and vulnerable to the key individuals who will contribute to realizing one’s goals, whether leaders, customers, or investors. Elliott is confident that by embracing these traits, aspiring leaders will lay a strong foundation for the growth of their ideas.

Elliott asserts that true innovators must take the initiative to chart their path and must assemble consensus and guidance along the way. This is leadership by example and teamwork, and teams go further with shared decisions, but steered by a leader. He believes the key to success lies in forging ahead with determination, seeking assistance when necessary, and rallying support from others to reach the desired destination. He says, “To be successful as an innovator, one must illuminate the path forward and actively engage others in pursuing their vision.”


In the dynamic world of banking and finance, a visionary leader must create a thriving, customer-centric organization. Elliott, the driving force behind Equity Bank’s meteoric rise, exemplifies such a leader. His dedication to innovation, entrepreneurship, and creating value for all stakeholders has propelled Equity Bank to the forefront of the banking industry.

In this age of rapid technological advancements, a keen understanding of the digital revolution’s impact on banking and finance is vital for any leader. Elliott acknowledges the transformative power of technology and champions its adoption within Equity Bank, ensuring the organization remains relevant and competitive. By investing in cutting-edge technology and fostering a culture of innovation, Elliott has cemented the bank’s reputation for excellence and customer satisfaction.

Elliott’s commitment to cultivating a progressive environment within Equity Bank is evident in his approach to empowering the organization’s leaders and team members. By embracing an entrepreneurial mindset and fostering collaboration, he has created a workplace where innovation thrives, and customer needs are met with creative solutions. This approach benefits the bank and contributes to the organization’s overall success and growth.

One of the most significant challenges for any leader is balancing personal and professional life. Elliott is no exception. As a seasoned leader, he understands the importance of setting boundaries and maintaining equilibrium, even when it may seem challenging. By clearly focusing on the bigger picture and recognizing that sacrifices may be necessary, Elliott navigates the delicate balance between his personal and professional responsibilities with aplomb.

Momentum is crucial in motivating a leader and their team, and Elliott is acutely aware of this. His strategy for maintaining momentum involves setting consistent targets and focusing on the broader milestones ahead. By helping team members envision more significant possibilities for their future, he keeps them engaged and committed to achieving the organization’s goals.

Creating a successful organization involves more than just a strong vision and strategic thinking; it also requires inspiring and engaging others in pursuing a shared goal. Elliott’s leadership style exemplifies this, as he actively encourages aspiring business leaders to be bold, fearless, and unwavering in their commitment to their vision. By being accountable, available, and vulnerable, leaders can lay a strong foundation for growth, ensuring the success of their ideas and their organization.

Equity Bank’s bold vision for growth and continued relevance in the finance sector is evident as it looks to the future. The organization plans to prioritize investments in technology, human resources, and its platform and focus on regional consolidation. With a growing customer base and an expanding presence in the market, Equity Bank is poised to strengthen its position as a leader in the industry.

Elliott’s leadership at Equity Bank is a shining example of how an entrepreneurial mindset, unwavering dedication to innovation, and a customer-centric approach can transform an organization. His ability to balance a personal and professional life, maintain momentum, and inspire the next generation of business leaders is a testament to his exceptional leadership skills. As Equity Bank continues to grow and evolve, the impact of Elliott’s leadership will undoubtedly serve as a beacon of inspiration for future business innovators. With a clear vision and a commitment to excellence, Equity Bank is set to redefine the banking and finance industry under Elliott’s expert guidance.