SFA students explore banking careers, receive industry insights

NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Local banking experts discussed the variety, flexibility and security offered by the banking industry with Stephen F. Austin State University students in the Rusche College of Business at a recent career exploration day. They also stressed the industry’s focus on giving back to the community through serving, advising and lending.

The event, sponsored by SFA’s Chadwick Family Banking Program, featured one-on-one meeting opportunities with nearly 20 Texas banks and bank regulators from the Texas Department of Banking and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. It also included a panel discussion that focused on careers in banking and recent headlines.

From Y2K and the 2008 economic meltdown to creating Paycheck Protection Program loans during the COVID-19 pandemic and watching the Silicon Valley Bank collapse in March, panelists said the banking industry will always weather tough times.

“We don’t believe Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse will result in additional bank failures and a recession,” said C Welch, a certified fraud examiner and assistant deputy comptroller for midsize and community banks with the OCC in Longview. “If it does, we’ll figure it out. That’s what Americans do.”

She went on to stress the importance of community banks in keeping a local community and its economy thriving.

“Community banks are the heart and soul of our communities,” Welch said. “Drive by the local high school and see which banks are advertising on the scoreboard. Bank with them because they focus on what is important locally.”

Malcolm Deason, another panelist and Lufkin market president of Cadence Bank, has been working in the banking industry for 25 years.

“Banking is all about relationships,” Deason said. “The most rewarding aspect of my career is being involved in the community I grew up in.”

Panelists described their experiences trying to make PPP loans as fast as possible during the pandemic because banks were the only conduit to distribute this money to businesses and people in need.

“I helped a woman who was turned away elsewhere get a loan so she could pay her six employees,” Deason said. “Now I see her at stoplights, and she lowers her car window and yells, ‘We’re still in business!’”

In addition to providing financial guidance and serving on local boards, banking industry professionals enjoy good salaries and a healthy work-life balance, said Justus Corley, panelist and senior vice president of Woodforest Commercial Banking in The Woodlands. He added that SFA’s Chadwick Family Banking Program serves as a springboard for students into the industry.

“This banking program is a shot in the arm,” he said. “Students graduate with the analytical knowledge they need to speed up their careers.”

Sean Doyle, panelist and senior vice president of Texas First Bank in Galveston, said the industry needs a variety of people with different skills, from analytical to communication to people management. It’s ultimately “about finding the right fit. And if you’re willing to do the work, the sky’s the limit as far as salary.”

SFA Regent Judy Larson Olson, a 30-year career commercial banker and mortgage lender as well as producing branch manager at Supreme Lending in The Woodlands, moderated the panel. She summed up banking careers by saying, “No matter your title, be it CEO or personal banker, your job is to gather deposits, make loans and give back to the community.”

For more information on SFA’s Chadwick Family Banking Program, visit sfasu.edu/ecofin/academics/banking.