Off Loop

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Playing and working around the Loop is living the dream, but if you had to go to work in town every day, the new Live Oak Bank wouldn’t be a bad choice. When you think of a bank, you might picture traditional office settings with conservative business attire. Just ditch all of your assumptions right now. This contemporary Live Oak Bank campus feels more “live oak” than “bank.” The building with North Carolina cypress siding and architectural presence stands poised among tall pines.  The cypress turn gray over time, naturally integrating with its surroundings.  The place is really magnificent.

Don’t expect the usual office attire either. You won’t see employees wearing suits, unless they’re swimsuits or boardshorts. During the recent debut of their new building, Sean Ruttkay, one of our favorite local artists (see Sean’s full story on our homepage was featured, demonstrating Live Oak’s commitment to our community and the arts. Sean’s pieces fit naturally within the framework of office sophistication coupled with a coastal Carolina flare. Sean has brought the ocean into Live Oak; or one might feel transported to the sea, as well.

So we took this field trip off-Loop last week because we were lucky enough to catch up with Live Oak President and Chief Operating Officer Neil Underwood, who took us on a tour of the fresh campus. The 36,000 square foot modern ark is nestled back within a coastal plains pine woods adjacent to wetlands and a pond. We were transported. Where were we, again? San Francisco? And we are impressed with their success that does not stand still with the building – Live Oak expects to make about half-billion dollars in loans this year, and the business is growing. There are 90-plus employees in the headquarters building alone, but you would never know it, and plans to expand to a second building are in the works.  The company’s serious about employee wellness and fitness too, providing a modern gym with a fantastic view where employees can get their fix. The CEO even hired his personal trainer to work full time there with employees. The place rivals any high-end racquet club. Whether sitting and working, working out, or strolling the wide-open hallways, your senses experience everything – from coworkers on the other side of the U-shaped structure to surrounding mother nature.

Since being founded in 2007, Live Oak Bank has been actively supportive of our local community in many ways.  Live Oak’s thrust is in supporting independent business people in niche industries, providing business loans that big banks generally walk away from. The bank makes business loans to veterinarians, physicians, dentists, funeral home directors and independent financial advisors. Live Oak took launched a personal approach, identifying clients not as numbers, but as real people facing real-life opportunities and challenges. Today, Live Oak Bank is the second largest originator of small business loans in the country, and their default rate with their customers remains one of the lowest in the nation. They believe that when they forge a new partnership with a customer, the loan itself isn’t the end of the relationship – it’s just the beginning.

Sean Ruttkay’s artwork is displayed prominently throughout the modern and spacious cypress structure and is indigenous to the informal feel that the company values. Sean’s elemental art here really has impact with the infinite sea flowing though timeless wood adding motion and depth without taking anything away from the architectural style of the place. Neil said they charged their interior designer, Susan Bozeman of Atlanta, with finding progressive art to bring in a local presence, capturing the essence   of Wilmington. She found Sean Ruttkay and EDASurf . Sean was just one of the local artists represented at the grand opening celebration.  Other local artist’s work adorns the entire building located on Tiburon Drive. Progressive describes everything here – from the financial business to the architecture (designed by local architect Chris Boney) right outside onto the campus where Phase II is already planned because they are busting out of this brand new building.

On Sean Ruttkay expresses that “Art in the office environment is paramount to a successful business,” ( We came away from our field trip experience to Live Oak feeling like he is right on target.


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