LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 2, 2024) — Rolandas “Ro” Byrd grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, watching his parents build a life with a strong sense of community at heart. His father was an officer and a detective. His mother was always involved in church and working in a soup kitchen to feed the homeless.
He was inspired by his mother’s generosity and compassion for people who did not necessarily have a voice. His parents were also small business owners of a cleaning company, and a detail and customizing shop. Notably, he witnessed the impact a trusted banker had on his parents’ businesses as they navigated their way through adversities to success.
What may have seemed like simple observations in his life at the time, would become a major influence on career decisions once he left home for the University of Kentucky. Although he didn’t begin his college career with an interest in earning a business degree, there was always that innate tug toward banking and helping others. Byrd graduated from the UK College of Arts and Sciences in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. While Byrd was a student, he worked part-time for Bank One and his eyes were opened to the multitude of careers that the banking industry had to offer.
“I wanted to be in the commercial segmentation of banking because I saw how my parents’ business banker supported their success as entrepreneurs. Seeing how instrumental bankers are in the success of growing businesses, I wanted to be a part of that,” Byrd said.
Once he graduated from UK, Byrd applied for a management development program at Fifth Third Bank. He would go on to hold leadership positions throughout his banking career.
Byrd has been recognized for his professional achievements. He received the YMCA Black Achievers Award in 2007, the BBT Sterling Performance Award in 2012 given to the top 5% performers in various lines of business throughout BB&T, and Louisville Business First named him to their prestigious “Forty Under Forty” list in 2016. The award is given to talented young professionals under 40 who are making important contributions to the business community and making charitable efforts to make Louisville a better place to live.
Everything Byrd learned growing up about the value of hard work, the responsibility to help others and giving back to one’s community, laid a strong foundation for the position Byrd currently holds as director of community and multicultural banking at Republic Bank & Trust in Louisville. Republic Bank created this new banking division to meet the unique needs of underserved populations, particularly in banking and finance. Byrd was brought in to lead the new division bringing with him nearly 20 years of banking experience.
“What I do is work with nonprofits and minority owned companies and that’s not just black and brown, but veteran owned, women owned, and other community pockets as well, so we’re not just working for large corporations but we also want to help small business owners and meet them where they are,” Byrd said. “A lot of what we do involves listening sessions. We’re sitting down with folks in the community and with community leaders and asking them what they need from the banking standpoint and what do we need to bring to the table to help them succeed.”
Ensuring the success of his clients can mean bringing in businesses with the right tools and resources needed to provide solutions to any barriers to success. Byrd draws on his many years in the banking industry to inspire people with ideas that help turn their dreams into reality.
“I use this word 'intentional' a lot. We want to make sure that we are meeting folks where they’re at and a lot of challenges that we have in underserved areas is they don’t necessarily have the education and background for the financial (piece of the puzzle) so for example, we want to make sure that we are having financial literacy classes. We want to make sure that we are truly being intentional in giving them every aspect of what they need in order to succeed."
When Byrd is asked about his greatest accomplishment so far in life, he doesn’t talk about awards or the number of years in banking. Instead, he believes he was put on this earth to truly help people in his life and in his career.
“It takes more than one to make this world a better place and things are not going to change overnight. We’re in it for the long haul and we need to make sure that we all do this together.”
Something you may not know about Rolandas Byrd
Rolandas Byrd loves to travel but hates to fly. One location he says he will never forget is Athens, Greece. You’re more likely to find him in an Airbnb though, rather than at a touristy resort.
“I like to immerse myself in the culture to truly get to experience the country," Byrd said.
Locally, he loves the food scene and culture Louisville has to offer.
“When something new pops up, I really have to try it out!”
As part of its "Advancing Kentucky" series, throughout February UK is spotlighting Black alumni who are trailblazers in their fields and whose passion and perseverance are advancing the Commonwealth of Kentucky. We will showcase their remarkable achievements, honor their lasting legacy and continue to champion their incredible contributions to the advancement of the state.
As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.
In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.