Banking

Conversation With: North Dallas Bank and Trust President Larry Miller

The financial services exec on flexibility, opportunities, and what's ahead for the bank, which turned 60 this year.

Although COVID-19 may have put a damper on many businesses, the banking industry has seen no such slowdown. With the economy took a hit earlier this year, companies rushed to make sure they were in line to receive federal money via loan programs, and financial institutions small and large were on the other end of those phone calls, working to make sure their clients could pay their bills.

North Dallas Bank and Trust Co. turned 60 this year, and the values that have helped make it such a long-lasting institution were put to the test by the pandemic. This spring, the team processed around $72 million in PPP loans with more than 600 transactions—several years’ of transactions in normal times–in less than two months.

President Larry Miller, who has been with the bank for 38 years, says NDBT takes the long view when it comes to business and doesn’t get too hung up on the bumps in the road. “We’re not thinking about just one year, five years, 10 years,” he says. “We think in 50-year chunks at North Dallas Bank, and I love being a part of that.”

Larry Miller North Dallas Bank and Trust
NDBT President Larry Miller (Warren Cook)

D CEO spoke with Miller about an unforgettable 60th year in the banking industry, how the company has persevered, and growth opportunities that lie ahead.

What part of the business has remained consistent over the last 60 years?

MILLER: “I think the thing that has been most compelling to me as we observe these milestones in our company is the recognition of the value of our core beliefs and principles in what our mission calls us to, and all the things culturally about us that are non-negotiable.  How we translate those to the current environments yields sustainability and success for our company.”

What are those core values?

MILLER: “The way I would explain it is that it’s a company of possibility. Our customers and communities come to us and expect results and expect us to help them walk through their process, their needs, whatever it is that they’re trying to achieve, and how the bank can come alongside and help them achieve possibilities. It’s the same thing inside our company with our employees. One thing our employees understand is the message that they matter, that their contribution, their role, regardless of what it is within the company, contributes to the overall success. You have to make sure that you’re connecting and communicating fully with your employee base and making sure that they have clear expectations, and that everybody knows the direction in which we go.”

How has the pandemic impacted business?

MILLER: “On Feb. 15, or we have expectations for a year that looks like X, and then March 15 rolls around, and no one knows if the sun’s going to come out the next day. It was such a different environment within 30 days. And I think if you would have asked any banker in April if you would take 90 percent of achieving a budget as a goal for the year, would you be happy with that performance? I think everybody would have signed up for that and said, ‘There’s no way that’s going to happen.’ But guess what? It is happening this year to date. The performance for our bank has been really, really strong.”

How has uncertainty impacted your employees?

MILLER: “I would describe our bankers as being unafraid to walk into the next tomorrow because we’re a very solid company. We have a great sense of who we are. And it equips us to be able to continue to move forward, regardless of the environment in which we found ourselves. I don’t think anybody would sign up for a pandemic year. But it’s been pretty exciting to see how our folks continue to write the story and how they’re responding to the challenge.”

How has the staff been flexible during recent months?

MILLER: “Our bankers show up every day just wanting to advance the bank and serve our customers. We had people that might have shown up to be calling offices, and all of a sudden, they’re taking on and operating in a backroom capacity and bringing their expertise to building out diagrams or flowcharts of processes of how we’re going to do what we needed to do to make sure that our customers get the loans that they need. And the long hours, nobody seemed to really be bothered about that. We had people doing everything from bringing lunches in for people to just calling and encouraging one another to setting up focus groups within our company to develop products.”

What lies ahead for North Dallas Bank and Trust?

MILLER: “I’ve never been more excited about who we are and what lies ahead for us. I’ve seen in the way we respond to adversity, and I do expect that things will normalize. I tell my team all the time that I’m not focused on a new normal; I don’t like to talk in those terms. I think you get what you get. I think that’s just a new way that we’re going to be operating. The systems and the things that we’ve adapted as a result of the pandemic will translate to the post-pandemic era and allow us to continue to move forward. I’m excited because it has created a new opportunity. It’s allowed us to have a renewed emphasis on what really does matter and what really is important. And that’s the relationships that we can develop and the integrity and trust that we build as an anchor.”

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