Lyla Raglin London, MBA
With nearly two decades of experience in banking and real estate, Lyla Raglin London has made impressive strides in what is often considered male-dominated arenas. Born and raised in Houston, TX, she began her career in the banking industry at JPMorgan Chase, the nation's largest banking institution. With a focus on commercial lending and real estate financing, she steadily climbed the corporate ladder, rising from the credit training program to key leadership roles. Lyla eventually moved to other institutions where she held executive management positions, including senior bank officer at Wells Fargo, senior vice president and Houston market president at Mutual of Omaha Bank, and senior vice president and commercial lending manager at Southside Bank. As a licensed Texas realtor, Lyla is intricately connected to the real estate industry, and leverages her dual expertise in both her current roles as the co-founder, president, and chief executive officer of Inspire Holdings, Inc., a community bank in formation, and vice president of Lenwood Park Capital, an investment bank and private equity firm.
We recently sat down with Lyla to hear more about the many hats she wears as a business owner, the obstacles she has faced as a minority, and what she hopes to pass on to the next generation.
What led you to start Inspire Bank?
From an early age, I had big dreams to bridge the wealth gap. Lack of education and opportunity are prominent factors in the poverty cycle which plague countless families and communities. Many financial programs for low-to-moderate income communities focus on homeownership. I’ve always been captivated by the value creation of business so my plan to tackle economic disparities is rooted in entrepreneurship including providing educational resources and access to capital. Entrepreneurs are different types of people who often possess many overlapping traits that contribute to their success. In the banking industry, I’ve had the pleasure of being a valued partner to many entrepreneurs over the years providing capital to help start, grow, or expand their businesses – witnessing self-made millionaires change the trajectory for their family’s future generations.
Community banks play an important role in supporting economic activity. Over the past decade following the 2008 mortgage crisis, record numbers of community banks were acquired or merged with other banks creating larger institutions. Bank consolidations, coupled with depressed de novo bank start-ups nationwide, created a void in the banking industry that adversely impacts small businesses. Further, community banks were at the forefront in providing much needed funds to small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, which increased demand and loyalty to local institutions. After evaluating the competitive landscape in Houston, it’s a prime time to establish an institution to support our growing economy.
Tell us a bit more about Inspire Bank and your role there.
Inspire Bank (in formation) will be a nationally chartered institution headquartered in Houston, TX. I envision a bank that is built by bankers for entrepreneurs, meaning we will have tenured leadership and staff with a background in the banking industry and products and services crafted to service the small business community, including SBA and traditional lending, real estate financing, treasury management, advanced technology solutions, and online capabilities. As the chief executive officer, I am responsible for the overall direction and administration of programs and services provided by the bank. My most important job is staying close and in tune with our customers to ensure we a providing the highest level of customer relations and service.
What is the role of Lenwood Park Capital?
Lenwood Park Capital unites corporations seeking capital with strategic investors vying for returns. The company was initially established as a private equity firm to acquire value-add commercial real estate opportunities and quickly evolved to include investment banking activities out of necessity. The final step in chartering a de novo bank is raising the minimum capital requirement. While many firms claim to be specialized in this space, it became very evident that bank organizers would do much of the heavy lifting. Having over 20 years of investment banking experience on the team, we decided to leverage our expertise and resources to capitalize our bank project and offer private placements to corporations.
What challenges have you faced as a woman and minority?
I’ve established my personal brand based on my efforts never allowing underrepresentation to deter me from walking into a room. As an individual, high-producing employee, bias and stereotypes are muted to near whispers. I didn’t experience the impacts of being an “outsider” until I climbed the corporate ladder into leadership roles. I was constantly having to prove or explain myself, which wasn’t required of my male counterparts, so measuring twice and cutting once became commonplace. The weight of being discounted due to factors beyond your control can be challenging, but perception becomes reality. My unique experiences and perspective became my superpower as I embraced my differences to connect with those around me. As a leader, I create inclusive environments to educate and encourage others to be comfortable in their skin advancing collaboration and productivity.
What do you hope to pass on to younger people?
As a professional, I am passionate about financial literacy and bridging the wealth inequality gap. As a minority and female competing in this male-dominated field, I want to create opportunities and a path to empower those who look like me. Role models and education combat limiting beliefs that prevent some from reaching their true potential. I am grateful to those mentors and supporters who championed my success, and I look forward to continuing my quest to pay it forward.
Lyla Raglin London, MBA
President and CEO — Inspire Holdings, Inc.
Vice President – Lenwood Park Capital