People Business

A Note From the Chairman

If you have attended any business conference, banking seminar or networking gathering in recent years you’ve probably been inundated with themes around the pace of change due to technology. I recently attended a roundtable luncheon with the Greater Houston Partnership. The moderator asked each participant to introduce themselves and describe their company.

Repeatedly people made the comment that they now view themselves as a technology company in the “fill-in-the-blank” business. Banks in attendance were no exception. When it was my turn, I mentioned a few technology initiatives but then caught myself.

I thought of our bankers, the ones sticking out their hands to greet existing and prospective customers, those that listen patiently to the stories people tell and the needs presented by their unique circumstances, and those that answer the phone and handle the request rather than merely pass it down the line. I thought of the deep connection our bankers have with the community as they volunteer on nights and weekends to help create a future for others that otherwise might not be possible.

So, I said all of this as concisely as I could, “Allegiance Bank is in the people business.”

There was a pause, a silence that just for a moment made me think I had struck a nerve. Would they stand in ovation? Or were they thinking the old timer has lost it? Would they ask me to leave? Who knows if they understood what I meant.

It wouldn’t really matter if they had applauded the idea. Because even if they all agreed in the moment, “You’re right, we’ve gone too far, we need to remember it is about the people we serve,” I am afraid the feeling would soon fade. Their projects, initiatives and quants down the hall would soon regain power and dictate their things-to-do list.

I mention all of this, not without an appreciation of the benefits that technology brings. Efficiency is important. We know that data-driven, quantitative analysis can lead to insights that otherwise are unobservable. So, A.I. is certainly headed our way. Improved workflows, like most other great ideas, appear obvious after they are built and everyone benefits.

I recently heard an economist say that GDP growth results from two contributory factors, the growth in the workforce and the increase in productivity (the rate at which people work). The workforce, he said, is growing at 0.8% which means that to achieve an overall rate better than 2% or 3% requires more efficiency. Therefore, innovation is indeed required. I agree!

But we want fans, not just customers. If our “fans” come only as a result of some new, latest technology, surely when the bank down the street (or from some distant, unknown locale) unveils something even better, wouldn’t they flit toward that? A relationship, however, built over time, through the ups and downs and where technology only adds to the service rather than is the service, will lead to a more lasting reward.

Often the extra mile we go isn’t even recognized beyond the appreciation of the recipient. No matter. After all, awards are things to be dusted. That isn’t why we do community banking. We’re in the people business and that is not only what but why we do it.

Allegiance Bank Chairman Steven Retzloff

Steve Retzloff, Chairman