Kris Foster: Building Pinnacle’s Equipment Finance Success Story

by Erin Rafter Monitor 100 2024
While the regional bank scare of 2023 was tumultuous for many banks, it served as an “opportunity of a lifetime” for Pinnacle, which achieved nearly $700 million in portfolio growth. Kris Foster, executive vice president, credits this success to the company’s culture and its client-focused business strategy.

Kris Foster,
EVP, Equipment Finance,
Pinnacle Financial Partners

Kris Foster spent the first decade of his career in the equipment finance sector of CIT and PNC. He later joined Wells Fargo in 2007, where he spent the next 14 years, before creating the equipment finance practice at Pinnacle.

“During COVID, I wanted an opportunity to build something different,” Foster says. “My strategy was to compare the top 100 banks in asset size with the Monitor 100 to determine which larger banks didn’t have equipment finance divisions. I ultimately picked Pinnacle based on their strong culture.”

Foster was looking for a smaller bank that would allow him the space to be nimble, entrepreneurial and, most importantly, focused on culture. Pinnacle, a 23-year-old bank nearing $50 billion in assets, works toward a vision of being the best financial services firm and the best place to work. The bank’s associates work with an advice-forward approach, eschewing a sales focus to give clients what they need to grow their businesses. It was a perfect fit.

A key factor behind Pinnacle’s early success in equipment finance is Foster’s team. With an average tenure of 25 years and no member having less than a decade of experience, the team leverages their expertise to attract new clients and help drive the bank’s success.

Beyond culture and an experienced team, Pinnacle emphasizes a client-focused approach to business. Initially, amid economic stimulus and ample liquidity, rapid growth overshadowed capital strategy and the syndications team was instrumental in the company’s initial success. However, as interest rates climbed and liquidity tightened, Foster directed his team towards strategic and creative deals, emphasizing value creation for the bank.

Looking ahead, Foster plans for sustained, strategic growth both in client base and internal team development. Despite challenges like narrowing margins, liquidity concerns and the rise of AI, Foster remains optimistic regarding his strategies of commitment to client relationships, streamlining the finance process and diversifying the loan portfolio with quality C&I businesses.

“Since COVID, people aren’t making the same kind of personal visits they used to make, and clients are feeling it,” Foster says. “We frequently collaborate with Coalition Greenwich for market research. One of their top findings every year is that business executives want to be seen and want someone bringing creative ideas to their companies. We are going to do just that, and that’s the differentiator. You can’t build a business based on the cheapest cost.”

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