If you love math, are thrilled to balance your household budget, and enjoy working with people, you may be well suited for a banking career. Banks are among the leading employers in the financial field, as banking is a core function within the financial services industry. The banking sector has a wide range of jobs and positions available, with many possible career paths.
Some bank jobs require you to work face to face with customers on a daily basis, while others allow you to focus on the more regulatory or auditing functions of a bank. Regardless of the job function, the important work bankers perform helps provide the essential financial services that shape the lives of individuals and businesses, even revitalizing entire neighborhoods via customer accounts, home loans or small business lending.
The banking professionals profiled all share a dedication to a high level of service for retail customers and every type of business. They are also keenly aware of the positive impact banks can have on local communities. These women share what drew them to banking as a career and advise those seeking to pursue a similar path.
Chief Sales and Service Executive, Broadway Bank
Throughout a career in banking spanning 25 years, Karen Mawyer has seen banking evolve from using dial-up modems selling mortgages with Fannie Mae one by one in the secondary mortgage market to bundling mortgages for mortgage-backed securities. The San Antonio native moved to Broadway Bank earlier in 2017 from USAA, where she worked for 17 years selling mortgages and improving customer experiences.
Mawyer returned to San Antonio after graduating from Texas A&M with her accounting degree. Initially she was unsure which career path to pursue. After becoming a CPA, she started as an auditor at World Savings Bank and then worked at Frost Bank, where she continued in auditing and eventually moved into mortgage banking.
As chief sales and services executive, Mawyer focuses on integrating sales and services for both personal and business banking clients within Broadway Bank. Always skilled at math, Mawyer is also a “people person” and continues to acquire new skills as she works across the spectrum of private, wealth and commercial banking services in her new position at Broadway.
“We’re a one-stop shop — from banking services for your business to your personal banking needs,” Mawyer said. “Broadway supports different sizes of businesses, from emerging family businesses to established multimillion-dollar companies.”
At Broadway Bank, Mawyer also spends time mentoring and developing talent in its workforce. Her office’s white board showed insights and guideposts in key areas, reflecting her intentional approach to building upon Broadway Banks’s culture and long- standing tradition of customer service and community support.
“Diversity of thought is essential for success,” Mawyer said. “Grow your network, support others, and you will be more successful.”
Mawyer finds San Antonio to be a relationship-based city with a strong sense of community. She also finds that often what makes one bank stand out from others is the customer’s experience. That’s where Mawyer finds herself most passionate, seeking new approaches to providing the best possible customer service.
“Women need more confidence — a lot of times we second-guess ourselves,” Mawyer said. “Keep learning, gain competencies in your career, get accreditations, leverage your colleagues, stay focused on your strengths.”
Senior Vice President and Central Texas Area Manager, Business Banking Team, Amegy Bank
Susan Heidrich’s first job was serving local business owners and bankers after school at a soda fountain in her hometown of New Braunfels. Her natural people and math skills led her to a career in banking after graduating from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State).
Heidrich started in 1974 in the loan department for First National Bank in New Braunfels, which later became Texas Commerce Bank and eventually JPMorgan Chase. She became the bank’s manager and later a credit analyst and relationship manager responsible for business loans. In 2013 she joined Amegy Bank, where she is senior vice president.
“I enjoy calling on clients or prospects, hearing about their businesses and seeing where Amegy can help to make them even more successful,” Heidrich said. “I admire the fact that we are real bankers at Amegy who are able to offer real solutions based on our experience and knowledge.”
Heidrich still uses her math prowess and people skills at Amegy Bank, reviewing credit packages and working closely with clients.
“When I worked in a local bank in New Braunfels, I loved it,” Heidrich said. “It’s fulfilling to see someone start a business and obtain working capital to become a success.”
Heidrich finds San Antonio to be the “smallest large city you will ever find,” where much business comes from referrals. Building relationships is important ,not only to customer services needed but to advise on services that would be helpful for future financial needs.
“When I started in the 1970s, there were not many female bankers,” Heidrich said. “I’ve had great managers who supported me along the way, so I would advise those starting out to look for mentors and other role models.”
Heidrich recommends searching for mentors in the workplace, including joining professional organizations or looking within personal networks of contacts.
“It was very interesting to work at the time when you did everything,” Heidrich remembers. “Don’t get pigeonholed into a single area and think anything new is beyond your grasp, keep learning, and ask for help.”
Senior Vice President, Corporate Banking, Frost Bank
For Lavonne Garrison, banking was a natural progression from her early love of math and excellence in handling money. She also had a close-up view of banking from observing her grandfather, who was a banker in Houston. It came as no surprise when the Corpus Christi native majored in finance as an undergraduate and in marketing for her graduate degree at Texas A&M University in her hometown.
“I was always curious about my grandfather’s job and was fascinated about how banking helped people’s lives and contributed to building the community,” Garrison said. “I completed my master’s degree in order to become a more valuable resource.”
Garrison started her career during the economic downturn of 1987 and has been working with Frost Bank since 1994. She moved from Corpus Christi to San Antonio in 2011 when her husband relocated for his job. As a certified wealth strategist at Frost Bank, Garrison works closely with business owners on their commercial lending and wealth management needs, becoming their trusted adviser over time.
“Business owners work so hard at their business, they also need professional advice on how to manage their wealth and pass it on to their families and communities,” Garrison said. “I work closely with families who start their businesses, and I get to hear their stories, their challenges and opportunities. I still work closely with some clients in Corpus Christi.”
Now that Garrison calls San Antonio home, she admires its sense of community and culture. She understood how Frost Bank is committed to supporting San Antonio, especially after hearing chairman emeritus Tom Frost give his often-repeated quote about banking: “We are not in the money business, we are in the people business and happen to use money as a way to serve the needs of the people.”
“What drew me to Frost Bank was hearing Tom Frost speak at a banking conference,” Garrison said. “He inspired me, and I knew I wanted a career with that kind of culture.”
Garrison’s advice to those starting in banking is to remember one’s career does not always travel in a straight path. As the banking industry pivots and evolves over time, the banker, too, must grow and acquire new skills.
Vice President, Business Banking, Crockett Bank
Dahlia Garcia was born and raised in Corpus Christi, moving to San Antonio in 1992 to attend the University of the Incarnate Word, where she earned a degree in management. Garcia has worked in the banking sector since 1981 and is familiar with every aspect of the industry, from retail to commercial banking.
Her focus for the past four years has been on her role as the community reinvestment act, or CRA, officer for Crockett Bank, a real estate lender. She wears multiple hats as vice president, working on commercial and residential real estate lending and overseeing Crockett Bank’s CRA grant program.
“Crockett Bank invests in low and moderate income areas, working with investors interested in commercial properties to help revitalize those communities,” Garcia said.
She helps low-income families who do not qualify for home mortgages elsewhere. Families may not have the funds for closing costs or down payments, so Garcia, as the bank’s CRA officer, will help these families qualify for an affordable home.
“There is a big unmet need for affordable housing for low-income families in San Antonio,” Garcia said. “Rents are high, as high as $1,100, and we can help bring that down to a mortgage payment that is half that through a combination of resources.”
Garcia partners with Neighborhood Housing Services San Antonio, a nonprofit organization that helps first-time homebuyers. She also works closely with the City of San Antonio’s Department of Community and Development Planning Homeownership Incentive Program (HIP). This program started four years ago and provides assistance to homebuyers to help with their down payment and some of the additional costs associated with purchasing a home.
“They are so excited when they become homeowners,” Garcia said. “You can change lives and make a difference through the power of home ownership.”
Before banking, Garcia worked with her parents in a florist shop, a business they eventually closed. “A friend in the neighborhood was a banker, and I thought she had a cool job,” Garcia said. “She was the influence that drew me into banking, which I pursued after I sold the flower shop.”
Garcia advises those thinking of a banking career to pursue a college degree in finance, accounting or management because that will provide added career flexibility. Getting her college degree at 35 years opened doors for her in banking as she progressed throughout her career.
She also stresses the importance of networking, especially given San Antonio’s professional community. “Everyone knows everyone here,” Garcia said. “Someone will introduce you, as everyone tends to be helpful, helping you grow and giving you referrals.”
Senior Vice President, Commercial Banking Division, Bank SNB
For Dallas native Cari Robinson, her approach to banking started by acquiring knowledge and experience across the commercial real estate industry. After receiving her degree in business administration from the University of Texas at Arlington, she started her career working for a real estate investor, before moving on to commercial real estate financing. She worked previously at Principal Financial Group and Mutual of Omaha Bank, before moving to San Antonio over three years ago.
Robinson joined Bank SNB in February 2014 and is senior vice president of commercial banking, specializing in commercial real estate banking, providing structured debt for clients specific for their needs. Most of Robinson’s clients include developers, property owners and investors primarily based in the San Antonio area.
“We help our clients achieve their goals,” Robinson said. “One way we do that is by tailoring debt to help them meet their objectives.”
In banking for 14 years, Robinson was drawn to the industry because of her keen interest in the world of commercial real estate finance. Mentors impacted Robinson’s career the most, encouraging her to move to the next level within her career in banking.
“I’ve worked on many sides of the commercial real estate transaction, including the investment and brokerage sides, as well as finance and banking,” Robinson said. “My experience helps me be well rounded as a commercial real estate banker, and understanding all the parts of the transaction helps me structure my clients’ banking needs appropriately.”
Robinson sees San Antonio as a city of great opportunity, with no limit to what one can achieve here. She feels it is a great town for women in banking and for those working in commercial real estate.
“I appreciate being seen as a partner to my clients and helping them achieve their goals,” Robinson added. “Our clients look to us for good advice and to execute flawlessly. That relationship is invaluable, as it goes beyond just making a loan.”
She advises those starting out in banking to be true to one’s self and surround yourself with people of similar values. Robinson also reminds women to be confident in their knowledge, but never stop learning. She recommends joining professional networking and collaboration groups, such as the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the Real Estate Council of San Antonio and the Urban Land Institute. Building relationships does take time, but it is time that is well invested, according to Robinson.
“Relationships are real here, they are a driving force in San Antonio,” Robinson observed. With strong relationships you become an important part of the transaction, where you function more as a trusted adviser and partner rather than just a banker.”
By Iris Gonzalez
Photography by David Teran