Pam Berneking's rise to CEO of Alterra Bank started at early age - KCTV5

Pam Berneking's rise to CEO of Alterra Bank started at early age

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Inside every office, there is a story about someone's life and their job.

Pam Berneking's Leawood, KS, office shows a wife, proud mother of two and a career at its pinnacle. Her path to the corner office at Alterra Bank started at an early age.

"I really have never worked anywhere but this industry so, when I was 16, I got my first banking job," she remembered.

That job turned into a love of the business. Right after college, she started working for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or FDIC as a bank examiner.

"It was a hard job. It required you to be comfortable facing challenges every week that were different because you were going from one place to another. It was just wonderful exposure to everything good and bad that could happen in a bank," she said.

The bad that could happen in a bank got a lot of attention a few years back during the recession. The public perception of bankers wasn't good. Feeling compelled to try and change that, Berneking joined together with a group to buy their own bank. They wanted it to be a strong community bank that would help both people and businesses. They named it Alterra, which means high ground.

"We [Alterra Bank] are all driven by this idea that bankers can do better, that we as an industry can make a difference, a positive difference and we do that by truly being a community bank," Berneking said.

Her ambition has served her well in the male-dominated field. With hard work and a strong work ethic, she has worked her way to CEO of the bank.

"I think one of the reasons why I've been successful is that I don't think much of gender bias. I'm not telling you that it doesn't exist - it undoubtedly does. And certainly if I sat here and thought about it, I could give you examples where I've experienced it. But, what has worked for me is that I've tried to build a career-based on merit," she said.

Berneking credits her mother and father with the encouragement to set her goals high.

"My parents are really special, encouraging people who early on instilled in me and my brother the idea that we both could do whatever we wanted to do," she said.

She also credits her work for helping to balance her family life.

"I was a better mom because I was working at something I loved to do. Not everybody has that privilege, not everybody can do that, but if you can do something 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that you really love to do, when you come home at night, you're feeling good. You're energized," she said.

Berneking knew early on she liked banking. One of her most cherished items in her office is a symbol of her family and love for baking. It's a keepsake left by her grandmother after she passed away.

"This little bank was in her house. It has a nickel and a penny in it and a little note from her in her handwriting about 'when Pam was 8-years-old, I just bought this bank to drop coins into. When she saw it had no money in it, she went to her little purse and brought me six cents.' So I always say this was my first bank," Berneking said.

Alterra has two locations in Lee's Summit, MO, and Overland Park, KS.

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