Allegiance Bank Puts Customers’ Needs First
By Rod Evans
You’ve got a great idea for your business. You have a solid business plan and the knowledge to carry out the plan, but what you don’t have are the resources you need to make it happen. Now comes the tough part… securing a loan.
For many business owners that means walking into a bank and sitting down with a banker who then sends your information to an underwriter to decide whether or not to authorize your loan, without ever actually meeting you.
But if you are a customer of Allegiance Bank, your experience will be entirely different. Why? Because Allegiance Bank, which opened its Clear Lake office this spring, is a company that takes its title of “community bank” very seriously.
“Our culture is we’re all about people,” said Clear Lake Bank Office President Frank Law. “Our motto is, ‘It’s not what we do, but what we do together that makes the difference.’ We are a decentralized model, which means most loan decisions can be made here in our local office.”
With $1.2 billion in assets, Allegiance Bank, founded in Houston in 2007, has 11 locations in the Houston area. Law says a pending merger with Enterprise Bank, expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter of 2014, will give Allegiance additional locations and increase assets to $1.75 billion. But even as the company grows, Law says its overriding philosophy of providing a one-on-one banking experience remains intact.
“Our bank stresses community banking and we’re committed to helping small to medium enterprises achieve commercial success,” Frank stated. “We focus on helping companies with $500,000 to $50 million in revenue, so we’re not focused on Fortune 500 companies. We look for companies that want answers and local decision makers. All of our bankers on the senior staff in the Clear Lake office are community bankers who are already well entrenched with established customers in the community.”
Allegiance Bank’s customers benefit directly from working with experienced bankers who are given autonomy to make decisions in-office, which allows them to have open and honest communication with their customers. While the industry standard is to make lending decisions based solely on numbers, Allegiance Bank chooses to get to know its customers on a personal level, incorporates a trust factor into its approach to banking and pledges to give customers access to the decision makers.
Giving community bankers such a high level of autonomy requires a team of skilled, veteran bankers and the Clear Lake office team is just that. Vice President/Office Manager Libby McGee, and Vice President/Lenders James Waguespack, Jamie Ballard and Leslee Farley all meet this high standard.
Leslee’s 30-year banking career includes over 20 years of working with Bay Area customers and her background includes experience in real estate lending. Libby has been serving clients in the Bay Area since 1984 and has vast experience in all areas of banking. James has been serving customers in the area for nine years and has extensive training in credit and underwriting business loans, while Jamie has been in the banking industry for eight years and brings a wealth of experience in medical practice, partnerships and real estate.
During his 46-year banking career, Law has led management teams that have opened three de novo (i.e. brand new) banks and has led the development of multiple branch offices.
“The challenge of starting a bank or opening a new branch is always in finding the right team and knowing the right bankers in the community,” Law said.
Located in a beautiful, 6,000-square foot office at the corner of St. John Drive and NASA Parkway, the Clear Lake office offers a “concierge” feel and extraordinary service. Allegiance Bank operates differently from traditional banks. Everyone who comes in gets personal attention from our customer service representatives and is seated at a desk instead of standing in line at a teller station. There is no traditional drive through banking, but customers can use the drive through ATM to make deposits, transfers and withdrawals 24 hours, 7 days a week. The bank’s commitment to personal service also means that when someone calls the bank during business hours, they will speak to a real person, not an automated phone system.
Law said, “I believe in mobile banking. I believe in remote deposit capture for businesses. Allegiance Bank is on the forefront of using emerging technology to improve the banking experience for its customers but when a customer needs to speak with their banker, they don’t have to stand in line and talk to a teller. They sit down in a private setting and discuss their needs. In fact, most of my customers have my cell number, so they can get in touch with me when they have questions.”
In addition to remote deposit capture, which allows businesses to use a small scanning device directly from the convenience of their office, the bank provides a host of modern banking conveniences, such as positive pay, an anti-fraud cash management system, and real time deposits, which provide immediate access to cash from deposits.
While Allegiance bankers are knowledgeable in all aspects of real estate and business lending, including revolving lines of credit, working capital support, treasury management services and equipment lending, Law insists their philosophy of personal service is what separates them from other banks.
“We’re an extraordinary bank with extraordinary people who foster a culture of contribution to the community,” Law said. “That’s who we are.”
Yanni Demartinos, co-owner of Stellar Financial in Friendswood, says large banking institutions could learn a thing or two from the Allegiance Bank model.
“It’s called the personal touch and it’s something the big institutions have forgotten,” Yanni stated. “The big banks only care about the bottom line and if you want a loan, you have to talk to someone in Arizona or some place.”
Beth Williams, owner/CEO of Houston language and logistics company Tech Trans International, has been banking with Law for over 18 years and says he has brought his personal banking style to Allegiance Bank.
“Frank was one of the original bankers from the beginning of our company. I love banking with Frank because he makes it feel like I’m the most important client he has, and he makes everyone feel that way. He’s fast to react and gives you answers quickly so you don’t have to wait. He also gets involved in your project and offers great advice,” Beth said.
Randy Williams, owner of Clear Creek Equipment in La Porte, has been banking with Law for nearly 10 years and appreciates that he has brought his highly attentive, personal banking style to the Clear Lake office.
“I’ve never had a banker that responded to me so fast,” Randy said. “Frank knew us when we were a flea on the back of a dog’s butt, so he’s seen our company grow from nothing to what it is today, a very successful rental company in southeast Houston. But even when we weren’t as strong as we are now, he treated us as if we were.”