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Value Alignment Key to Success for Bank of Texas Leader

7 questions with Mandy Austin, new Dallas market president
Austin (R) and the Bank of Texas team delivering superhero capes at Children’s Health in Dallas.

Mandy Austin is a native Texan, which to her means that she was born with a certain amount of grit and determination. Those qualities frequently came in handy when she needed to make her voice heard as the middle of five children spread across a range of 27 years.

The daughter of a school teacher and an Air Force veteran turned entrepreneur, Mandy was taught early about the value of education, service to others, hard work and collaboration. “When you are a part of a big family, you learn to work together early on,” Austin reflected. “When there are limited resources, you quickly realize that you have a higher chance of success when you team up.”

After attending Southern Methodist University, Austin joined a rotational development program at Bank of Texas. She has worked her way up through the Corporate Banking Division and was recently promoted to lead the team as Dallas market president.

Get to know what drives her: grit, intentional listening, collaboration and a commitment to culture.

“When you work for a company whose values and priorities are aligned with your own, it rarely feels like work,” she said.

BOKF: How did you get started at Bank of Texas?

MA: I was recruited right out of SMU in 2006 to join the ACT (Accelerated Career Track) program with a focus on credit. I have always worked in service industries because I enjoy helping others. I knew that I would find satisfaction in my career if I could connect my passion for service with my technical training. Several banks had posted credit analyst positions promised a future “relationship management” role, and that title is what peaked my interest.

When I was a senior in college, I honestly didn’t know what commercial banking was, but I realized that Bank of Texas’ training program provided an incredible entry into the industry. It wasn’t until I was about 18 months into my role as a credit specialist that I realized that I wanted to be a banker. I recall driving home from work one day right at about 18 months with the bank, and I called my husband and said, “I want to be a banker.” He laughed and said he was glad to hear it because I worked for a bank.

Once I realized that commercial banking could eventually lead to a perfect balance of interacting with business clients and helping them solve financial challenges, I was sold. I really enjoy the forward-thinking aspect of helping companies and individuals work toward their goals.

Austin (L) presenting the Chairman’s Award to Melody Whitus alongside Norm Bagwell, regional banking executive.
BOKF: What did you learn during your time in the ACT program that you’ve carried through to today?

MA: The credit training program provided a very holistic view of the BOK Financial platform and the array of products and solutions we can offer to clients. It was a great foundation to prepare me for a career in banking.

The most important thing, however, was a focus on relationships and how to develop a broad network internally. When starting out in your career, you can’t possibly know all of the answers, and when you don’t know the answer, you need to know who to call and who can help. The internal network I developed during those first 18 months really enabled me to have a better understanding of the scope of the company, and it has helped me be more effective for clients and teammates too.

I really enjoy the continued involvement with the ACT program from interviewing new recruits on campus to hiring the next class of candidates and mentoring trainees. We have some really outstanding employees who have come through the program.

I am also regularly reminded that if you are capable, coachable, dedicated and have grit, this company will give you more responsibility. I have always felt like I have the opportunity to learn and grow in an environment that rewards entrepreneurialism.

BOKF: How has your leadership style been shaped by the company’s culture?

MA: I believe the keys to our culture are collaboration, accountability, responsiveness and a service-minded approach both internally and externally. To maintain that culture, I look for—and require—engagement from my team members in fostering our culture. When you have a team full of people who all believe in sustaining and building upon that culture, it allows us to focus on driving results because we’ve already agreed on the playbook of how we’ll get there. If everyone fully understands how they individually contribute to the group’s success, then they can take ownership of their role in the process.

When you foster that ownership, collaboration happens much more naturally—and collaboration is key for me. I want to see things from multiple points of view to ensure that we end up with the most well developed outcomes possible. Everyone comes to a discussion from different perspectives and with different objectives, and that is a good thing because it creates dialogue around issues that may not have otherwise been identified.

BOKF: What are your keys to leadership success?

MA: In my opinion, to be an effective leader you need to work really well with others, you need to be able to prioritize your time, and you need to be willing to do the hard things. These are some of the methods that have worked well for me.

1. Establish and define your own set of core values early on. Make these values known to others—this makes it easy for others to know how to work with you.
2. Create your priorities and be aware when they get out of balance, because they will get out of balance.
3. Work hard.
4. Show up with a positive attitude every day.
5. Have grit—choose to hear “no,” as “not yet” and remember that failure is part of learning and growth.
6. Listen intentionally.
7. Ask thoughtful questions.

BOKF: How has your team responded to the COVID-19 crisis in support of your clients?

MA: I have never been more proud to work here than I am right now due in large part to our ability to adapt in a rapidly changing environment and our team’s ability to deliver when our clients needed us the most. Our rapid and well-executed response to the CARES Act and PPP clearly demonstrated our ability to be nimble and responsive to the needs of our clients during a crisis. Our successful response to the PPP program was the outcome of the client-centric institution so many people have built over the years. When our clients need us, we deliver. As challenging as this year has been, it has been equally inspiring.

BOKF: What do you enjoy most about working in this industry now?

MA: I am generally a service-oriented person. Being a banker is just another way to help people—we help them grow their businesses, plan for their future, establish and then manage their wealth. It’s helping people achieve their goals, and I like being a part of that. The fact that the industry is so dynamic and being disrupted by fintechs and payment platforms pushes us to evolve and find a way for the banking industry to be a key contributor to those innovations. I think that’s an exciting opportunity.

BOKF: What do you like to do outside of work?

MA: I have two young boys that keep my husband and I very busy. He’s a pilot in the Air Force so we both have jobs that can be stressful, so in our downtime, we like a change of scenery. A few years ago, we decided to pursue a new hobby and purchased a small ranch a short drive away in Oklahoma (90 minutes works perfectly for a kid movie in the car). Our 12 chickens and 14 cows give us a nice distraction, and the escape to the country is a great place for our kids to burn energy while digging in the dirt and soaking up some sunshine.