A series spotlighting locally-owned businesses adjusting to the pandemic
With everything in flux in the current state of the global coronavirus pandemic, banks have had to remain a steady resource for people and businesses.
Texas Regional Bank, founded in 2008 by four businessmen who saw a need for a local bank in the Rio Grande Valley, has had to shift gears and ensure stability for its customers. Cesar Suarez, the Senior Vice President and Mission & Weslaco Market President of Texas Regional Bank, spoke on how COVID-19 has impacted the way they conduct business.
“Early on, we limited customer interaction by closing lobbies, provided employees with protective gear such as face masks and latex gloves and continually sterilized work spaces,” Suarez said, noting that business continuity was their big focus. “Knowing that if one employee contracted the virus it was likely that they’d infect others within their own department, we spread out employees from various departments throughout our branch footprint and allowed others to work from home.”
Texas Regional Bank has 20 locations across the RGV and Texas Hill Country. The four leaders who started Texas Regional Bank 12 years ago – Michael Scaief, Bobby Farris, Tudor Uhlhorn and Bill Elliff – had noticed that locally-owned banks had begun to decrease, so they went forward with the goal in mind to develop a regional banking franchise in the community.
According to the company website, “Texas Regional Bank has assets of approximately $1.03 billion,” and “is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Texas State Bankshares, Inc. with equity more than $80 million and more than 500 shareholders” across the state. Suarez said their first concern was the health and safety of customers and employees.
“After that, it was the uncertainty of the situation,” Suarez said on the shock of the initial transition during the pandemic. “You are bombarded with the only information available at the time, and you try to make heads or tails of it in order to make good decisions. School closures and the impact on working parents also stood out in particular.”
As closures have been slowly lifted in Texas, the operations have begun to return to normal – with adjustments.
“Our full-service banking centers have since re-opened, and we’ve resumed normal business hours,” Suarez said. “Protecting employees and customers while continuing to be accessible will continue to be our primary focus.”
Suarez noted that the passing of the CARES Act by Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a loan initially funded by banks in order to support payroll services and other expenses for small businesses.
“Since its inception on April 3, our lending team has spent a great deal of time funding these much needed loans,” Suarez said. “To date, TRB has processed over a thousand PPP loans (and counting) with loan funding in excess of $100 million, which we are very proud of.”
Texas Regional Bank believes in the importance of supporting local businesses in the community, especially in times like these.
“When you spend money supporting a local business, there is a good chance that business will in turn spend money here,” Suarez said. “They will employ people, as will out-of-town companies, however, the profits earned by a local business will pass on to its owners who will then purchase local goods and services, invest in housing which requires the payment of property taxes which supports local government and school districts and so on and so forth.”
“In many cases, these are the same business owners that support our local non-profits monetarily and through community service,” Suarez added. “When you don’t buy local, business profits are diverted out of our economy, which is generally not good.”
In terms of the future, Texas Regional Bank is hoping for a resolution that keeps the populace and economy healthy.
“[We’re hoping for a] rapid solution to both the medical and economic challenges caused by COVID-19, good health to our friends and family and immense gratitude for all the things we previously took for granted,” Suarez said. “Our business model will continue to evolve as pertinent information related to COVID-19 becomes available. We will also continue our active involvement in the communities we serve in this time of need.”
Suarez said that their mission remains the same.
“Our long term goal remains the same, to Bank Texas One Relationship at a Time,” Suarez said. “On behalf of Texas Regional Bank, I wish good health and a swift economic recovery for all impacted by COVID-19.”