How Fifth Third's Kala Gibson Drives Impactful Urban Entrepreneurship
Black Enterprise|Fall 2019
As executive vice president and head of business Banking for Fifth Third Bank, Kala Gibson focuses on helping small businesses gain the resources necessary for them to continue to drive employment, innovation, and impact.
Derek T. Dingle

In doing so, the financial services veteran has served as a catalytic force for what he describes as “urban entrepreneurship.”

Simply put, he seeks to transform small enterprises into growth companies.

Although he may serve a small business clientele, Gibson manages a massive portfolio. He oversees strategy, sales, product development, credit fulfillment, and operations for one of the Cincinnati-based institution’s largest divisions. As such, Gibson guides his team to handle the needs of companies with annual revenues up to $20 million—a cluster he says that ranges from “mom-and-pops up to the fast-growing tech companies”—across more than 1,100 banking centers in 10 states.

One of the nation’s preeminent leaders in business banking, Gibson is best suited to lead Fifth Third’s charge in this area. The Detroit native is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, gaining intimate knowledge of the needs of entrepreneurs with his 13-year stint with Comerica and more than six years with Fifth Third.

He holds a boundless passion for banking, dating back to his love of Monopoly at the age of 7. He was imbued with the spirit of service, however, when he noticed as a youngster that “banks and business left my community and then we started to see the decline. I saw that and said, ‘Hey, I want to fix that.’ So, as a child, I actually [declared], ‘This is my purpose in life.’”

Today, the expression of that purpose can be found in his role in the implementation of Fifth Third’s Community Commitment, which has pledged $11.1 billion to small business lending through 2020, and its $5 million contribution to the Community Reinvestment Fund (CRF) to expand access to capital, financial management, lending tools, and continuing education to low- and moderate-income housing. Moreover, last year, he was appointed to the board of directors of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, the leading supplier diversity and inclusion organization that matches more than 12,000 certified minority-owned businesses to its network of 1,750-plus corporate members. Another part of his advocacy includes getting his corporate brethren to reach out and help smaller, local firms to grow their companies as a means of expanding employment, supplier opportunities, and community reinvestment.

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