How Wayne-Kent Bradshaw became CEO of the bank that denied his immigrant mother a job

BY Preta Peace Namasaba February 28, 2024 11:02 AM EDT
Wayne Kent-Bradshaw Photo credit: Fintech Futures

As a teenager, Wayne-Kent Bradshaw’s mother left him in Jamaica to find work in Los Angeles where employment opportunities are better. She applied for a job at Broadway Federal Bank but didn’t get the position. Over five decades later, her son is the CEO of the finance institution that had no place for her. Bradshaw has gone on to lead the merger that made Broadway Federal Bank one of the largest Black-owned bank in the nation with more than $1 billion in combined assets.

Born and raised in the Jamaican capital of Kingston by a single mother, Bradshaw’s star shone from an early age. But after his mother moved to the US and left him with relatives, the 14-year-old boy veered off course. Bradshaw no longer took school seriously and there came a time when his brilliance could no longer compensate for his lackluster efforts. He was held back and even dropped out for a while. His trajectory was turned around when some teachers took him under their wing.

“I’ve been on my own essentially since I was 14. I got a lot of help. I was just that lucky kid everybody chose,” Bradshaw said about how grateful he was for the people who helped him along the way.

Bradshaw joined his mother in Los Angeles at 19 and started classes at L.A. City College. His exceptional abilities was noticed in athletics, and he earned a scholarship to the University of Arizona. He ran 400 meters while pursuing his MBA and learning about economics, a subject that had always held tremendous interest for him. His interest eventually shifted to banking after a summer working for Union Bank. In 1970, Bradshaw was employed full-time at Union Bank and began taking classes five nights a week.

He spent nearly two decades at Union Bank at intermittent intervals. For a few years, he worked for an engineering firm, returned to the bank and left again to serve as chief deputy superintendent of the California State Banking Department. Bradshaw also co-founded Industrial Bank which was later acquired before returning to Union Bank once more.

In 1988, he took over Founders Savings and Loan, one of the few Black-owned financial institutions in Los Angeles at the time. The bank was burdened by the weight of bad loans, losing millions of dollars every year and on the brink of failure. Bradshaw helped clean up its books before being sold to new investors. He then went on to work for Family Savings Bank, another black bank that was struggling. He turned around a troubled loan portfolio and raised capital to enable the bank to stay in business before it was acquired by another bank in 2003.

His next stop was at Washington Mutual which was acquired by JPMorgan Chase a few years later. Bradshaw kept his position as a community development executive. Instead of working with the bank to make loans accessible for underserved communities, the financial giant had him giving donations to community groups that were likely to cause trouble for the bank. But Bradshaw wanted to create impact through banking and found his role a little short of being a corporate “bag man.”

In search of a more fulfilling opportunity, Bradshaw found himself at Broadway Federal Bank – the place where his mother had failed to get employment.

In 2009, Bradshaw joined Broadway as president and chief operating officer. Despite the financial crisis, the bank was running smoothly. It however faltered as the recession worsened due to a lack of return on investment from loans made to churches. Corruption and mismanagement within the institution aggravated its predicament. Although Bradshaw’s previous positions had been focused on turning around troubled banks, it wasn’t the kind of situation he was looking for when he joined Broadway.

Broadway needed saving and the board thought Bradshaw was the right man for the task. He took over as CEO in 2012, transformed the bank into a healthy and profitable institution and led it through unprecedented growth. Broadway no longer makes church loans. It lends to buyers of small apartment buildings in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods across southern California, consequently helping maintain a stock of affordable housing. In what he describes as the best job he’s ever had, Bradshaw focuses on financially empowering the working poor and providing affordable living spaces for them.

In 2020, Bradshaw led the merger between City First Bank in Washington, D.C. and Broadway Financial Corp (BYFC) in Los Angeles. The transaction has created one of the largest Black-Owned bank in the US with more than $1 billion in combined assets. Driven by the belief that banking can be a force for good, Bradshaw is at the forefront of commercial investments with a focus on affordable housing, small businesses, and nonprofit development in underserved areas.

Bradshaw has not only thrived in a place where his mother was repudiated but also made history. Broadway is currently the only black-owned bank headquartered in the Western U.S.