Edward J. Bryant – 35th Annual Black Excellence Awards Honoree

Corporate Trailblazers

Edward J. Bryant
Town Bank/Wintrust

Edward J. Bryant has been Vice President of Business Banking and Community Lending at Town Bank, a division of Wintrust, for less than six months. However, over the course of 20 years, he worked his way up the corporate ladder, though not without some setbacks beyond his control along the way.

Edward began his career in banking as a customer service representative with a bank in Jackson, Mississippi that was later acquired by Regions Bank after earning a bachelor of arts degree in finance from Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi in 1997. Jackson State is one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to serve the African American community which was largely prohibited from attending other institutions of higher education.

After about two years in that position, he relocated to a larger branch in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2000 he and his wife, Delora, relocated to Milwaukee where Edward accepted a position as a branch manager with US Bank. From there he accepted a bank manager position with Associated Bank and finally in February 2003 he became a commercial loan officer and operations manager with Legacy Bank, one of a handful of African American owned banks formerly based in Milwaukee. In 2006 his career in commercial lending began to rise after he accepted a position as a senior commercial lender with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). He was the first African American to hold that position with WHEDA. In that position, his responsibilities included the development and growth of the southeastern region of Wisconsin, managing a commercial loan portfolio valued at $40 million and developing new commercial loan relationships.

After more than four years with WHEDA, Edward became vice president of commercial lending and chief lending officer in 2010 for North Milwaukee State Bank, another African American owned bank formerly located in Milwaukee. Both Legacy Bank and North Milwaukee State Bank were unable to recover from the Great Recession of 2007. Seaway was eventually acquired by North Carolina based Self-Help Federal Credit Union of Greensboro and North Milwaukee State Bank was also acquired by First Citizen’s Bank of Raleigh, North Carolina. Edward was laid off from North Milwaukee State Bank in 2013 due to budget cuts.

“The minority-owned banks are always the first to be hit and the last to come out of economic hard times,” Edward said. “The central city of Milwaukee is still suffering from the effects of the Great Recession. I feel we still have our challenges, but many people are working hard to try and make things better.”

With three children still in school, Edward could not afford to dwell long on the disproportionate economic shock suffered by majority African American neighborhoods during the aftermath of the Great Recession. After being laid off from North Milwaukee State Bank, Edward formed Edward Capital, LLC and became a consultant, enabling him to maintain regular contact with his network of colleagues. Among his clients was North Milwaukee State Bank until it was closed and acquired by First Citizen’s in 2016. As a consultant, Edward said he helped raise capital for businesses and religious organization, consulted with banks to underwrite and analyze commercial credit, coordinated meetings for loan committees and revolving loan funds and lectured at small business forums, among many other duties. After about two years of working as a consultant, he accepted a position as community development financial institution director and director of lending with the Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (NWSCDC) in Milwaukee. He continues to maintain Edward Capital, LLC.

Edward followed his time at NWSDC with brief stints at Chicago-based Byline Bank and the Black Business Investment Fund in Orlando, Florida before landing his current position with Town Bank.

“My family and I have made Milwaukee our home,” Edward said. The couple have three daughters: Azariah, Ashai, and Ayanna. Edward and his family are members of Northtown Church of Christ where he serves as a deacon and on the church finance committee.

Edward has a long history of community service in addition to his corporate trailblazing. He served as president and treasurer of the Fondy Food Center, a board member of the Riverworks Development Corporation, a revolving loan committee member for the City of Milwaukee Small Business Development, vice president and treasurer of the Highland Community School and a loan committee member for the African American Chamber of Commerce of Milwaukee and Legacy Redevelopment Corporation. Edward said he is committed to playing the long game when it comes to helping drive economic growth in Milwaukee’s central city.

“I don’t consider myself a lender,” he said. “I’m an economic advocate for the local economy. Banks are the cornerstone of the local economy. They should be economic advocates. I want all of Milwaukee’s neighborhoods to become more prosperous.”

In addition to his undergraduate degree, Edward has earned an MBA and a commercial real estate certificate through ACRE (Associates in Commercial Real Estate). Edward has also attended many banking and professional development courses.