It has been about 30 days since Bank of Texas announced that it had hired a new leader for the Dallas market: Mandy Austin. She leads operational and business development efforts for Bank of Texas, as well as all lines of business for the bank’s parent company, BOK Financial. With approximately 500 employees, it’s the fastest-growing market within the eight-state BOK Financial footprint.
Austin joined the company as a member of its management training program in 2006 and has quickly risen through the ranks of the corporate banking group. Most recently, she served as a corporate banking manager.
Despite the pandemic and other challenges, Austin is optimistic about the future. She believes Dallas’ economy is well-diversified, so when the city has a better grip on the coronavirus, the market will have an economic bounce.
D CEO recently talked with Austin to learn more. Here are excerpts from the conversation:
D CEO: What challenges has COVID-19 had on the market, and how are you addressing them?
MANDY AUSTIN: “There are so many right now with the current environment that we are in. The challenges that we are seeing are unprecedented, so we are experiencing, obviously, a global pandemic, which is shutting our clients and businesses down.”
“The first way we will do that is by leveraging our experience and the expertise of our people. Those two things go a long way, but when you have folks who have the kind of experience that we do in our organization and have lived through multiple cycles, maybe not one that looks quite like this today, that experience provides us an incredible advantage when working with our clients because we know what works. We can give our clients guidance about how to manage through a downturn like this.”
D CEO: If you were to fast-forward, what would success look like a year from now?
AUSTIN: “As I look forward, I see capitalizing on the bounce, if you will. I think that our economy is so well diversified in Dallas that when we get a handle on this virus, we will see a significant economic bounce. We’re continuing to operate that way: that we expect a quick recovery. And so, we will have a team in place to continue to support the businesses that will be growing in our community at that time, and so, for us, that may mean looking at putting a commercial team in North Dallas with our wealth management team that has moved up there. It will mean that our portfolio has weathered this COVID economic recession that we are looking at right now, and it will mean that we have the right people on the team to help drive our business forward. And so, those are a few of the things that I would consider successes, and the only other thing I would add is that our community as a whole will have weathered this storm, and we’ll have people back to work.”
D CEO: What do you think people in Dallas should know about the state of the market?
AUSTIN: “I would tell them that the fundamentals are strong, that this is an extraordinarily challenging time but that we should be optimistic about our future, and that we’ve been through hard things before, and we’ll get through this, too. And so, the sooner we can find a vaccine, the faster that will happen, so I would say: If we can stay healthy and well, we can all be very optimistic about where we’re headed.”
D CEO: What are you most excited about in your new role?
AUSTIN: “I see this role as being a role that elevates others. And, that’s my main goal. And, so, just getting our story out and highlighting our focus would be the two things I’m most excited about, externally. Outside of the people, I would say being a significant part of deciding where we make an impact in the community, whether it’s in terms of dollars or volunteering, partnering with our community relations manager, Cristie Escochea, and ensuring that we are making the biggest impact that we can here in Dallas is something that I’m very excited about as well. Philanthropy has been at the heart of what we do and how we run our business.
“And the third piece of it is just capitalizing on the incredible market that we are in Dallas and finding ways to partner with the growing companies in Dallas to help them accelerate their growth through the utilization of our products and our expertise.”
D CEO: Dallas is the fastest-growing market within the BOK Financial footprint. How do you see that continuing under your leadership?
AUSTIN: “We not only offer traditional lending solutions as an organization. We’re a very diversified wealth management firm, as well as a traditional commercial bank, so our products are not fully dependent on really capital-intensive companies, meaning we’re not just a lender. We have a lot of other solutions that we do offer. So, because a lot of the businesses that are in Dallas are service-based, some of them may be more technology-oriented, they aren’t really heavy, intense users of capital. But, we have all of the right people and platforms in terms of treasury management, wealth management, corporate card, or payment processing solutions that we can leverage to build work with these companies outside of just providing traditional capital in the form of a loan, so I fully intend for us to leverage those solution sets in a significant way going forward.”
D CEO: How would you describe your leadership style?
AUSTIN: “I would say that it’s highly collaborative. I take a team-based approach in everything that I do. With that, you still have to be decisive once we have all the right information, so it’s a combination of collaboration and decisiveness to move forward. But, I certainly think that when you have an engaged team, that’s when you’re the most effective, and so, we’ve truly tried to engage our teams in leadership. We have a Dallas leadership team, and so, I truly see myself as just a coordinator of this group of leaders to drive the market forward.”
D CEO: Who do you model your leadership after?
AUSTIN: “I’ve taken bits and pieces from many incredible people that I’ve worked with both in Dallas and in other settings as well. Norm Bagwell, who I work with today, and Mark Wade, who I have worked with for 14 years, and Chris Holder were big influencers on my career. Evelyn Henry Miller is someone who I’ve admired for a long time and is well known in Dallas. There are more people than I can mention; I’m just very grateful.”
D CEO: What is the best piece of advice that has had the most significant impact on your career?
AUSTIN: “Have grit. … You learn from your mistakes, but you have to be willing to get back up and keep going. Having that grit enables you to do that.”
D CEO: What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned?
AUSTIN: “People are the most important part of the equation when you’re in business, no matter what level you are at in the company, and so, fostering those relationships is incredibly important. And, when you are in management, and you work with high performers, they are constantly looking for ways to be better. So, always be looking for ways to continue to provide challenges to your highest performers.”