Lone Star National Bank makes the move to San Antonio.
By: Rudy Arispe
What began as a small bank with only 10 employees in a nondescript building in the border town of Pharr in January 1983 has, over the course of 28 years, grown into a major financial institution and a recognizable community presence throughout much of the Rio Grande Valley.
Today, Lone Star National Bank – which has built its stellar reputation on doing business based on a firm handshake and fulfilling its promise to stand by its word and deliver – is expanding into the Alamo City.
In March 2010, Lone Star set up operations at 40 NE Loop 410 at McCullough Avenue on the North Side. The bank is moving forward with robust plans to open 10 full-service branches across the city as part of a long-term strategic goal, says the bank’s Chief Executive Officer A. Jabier Rodriguez.
“I arrived in ’93 as CEO, and since that time we had opened 21 branches in Starr, Hidalgo and Cameron County, so we pretty much covered our primary territory,” Rodriguez says. “We have always had plans to grow the bank into the future. So we wanted to find an expansion market that is highly resilient and vibrant, and San Antonio’s economic base is twice the size of all three counties in which we operate and is resilient, to boot.”
Considering, too, that the demographic of the Rio Grande Valley is 85 percent Hispanic, and that Lone Star’s target market is family-owned businesses, professional practices and Mexican Nationals, bank officials found San Antonio to be a similar market, so the Alamo City was an obvious choice to spread the bank’s financial wings, according to Rodriguez.
“It was just a natural extension for us, and we’re delighted to be here,” the CEO says. “It’s also tripled our economic base. This is a defensive move, and it’s also a very good offensive move for us to diversify.”
S. David Deanda, Lone Star president and chief operating officer, echoes Rodriguez’s remarks that company executives are enthusiastic about moving into the local market. He has high hopes that Lone Star will fare well in its new home outside the Rio Grande Valley.
“Our focus is small, family-owned businesses and residents of Mexico,” says Deanda, who is based at the bank’s corporate office in McAllen. “A lot of Mexican Nationals have moved to San Antonio, so we’re following our customers here, so I think we’ll do well in the San Antonio marketplace.”
Now that Lone Star has established locations here, Rodriguez says its strategy is to stay focused on customers in order to build its franchise in the Alamo City.
“Our philosophy has always been to work hard for the customer and never take their business for granted,” he says. “We started out small, and it’s always been an uphill battle. We’ve faced significant competition in the Valley, and we’re facing significant competition here.
“We know that the only way for us to get an opportunity (to succeed) is if we’re willing to work harder and to make sure we never get to the point where we become complacent.”
Since that first important point of contact between a customer and a financial center is often the banker, Rodriguez adds that Lone Star is aggressively seeking to hire and train bankers who they believe will be an asset to their team. “We’re currently recruiting bankers and college graduates who are San Antonio natives,” he says.
When Lone Star first opened in the Valley, its plan was to make the financial institution the premier bank in the Valley, Rodriguez explains. Now that it has accomplished that goal, Lone Star has set its sights on San Antonio, making Lone Star a formidable competitor against local banking centers. However, Rodriguez is aware that he and his team have a lot of work to do.
“My personal goal as CEO is to duplicate in San Antonio what we have in the Rio Grande Valley,” Rodriguez says. “We told the press (a year ago) that we were going to build 10 branches. We already have three opened. We plan to open another three this year. But I think it’s going to take more than that. I want to duplicate our customer base that we have [here] in the Valley to make that resiliency as profound as we can possibly make it.”
But the optimistic Rodriguez says Lone Star, which currently has 20 employees based in San Antonio, is ready to roll up its sleeves and get to work.
“So how do you prove to somebody you are willing to work hard for them so that they give you a shot?” he says. “If they give you a shot, you have to deliver.”
With its move into the Alamo City, Lone Star brings with it potential job opportunities, thus contributing to the local economy and thereby making it a welcome addition to the city. Aside from hiring bankers, the bank will employ locals as part of its plan to open a data processing center here. Those operations are currently handled in McAllen.
“Not only are we diversifying to an equally resilient economy that’s twice the size, but we felt in order to deliver the best customer service, we have to have our own data center so you can program it to deliver whatever your customer is asking for,” Rodriguez says.
He adds that establishing a data center also means setting up a back-up center, so with bank locations, a data center and a back-up center, Lone Star could conceivably hire 20 to 50 people per year in the next several years, Rodriguez says.
“The number of people we add is going to depend on how well we deliver our strategies,” he says, “and if we deliver our strategies well and the community responds well, that means the more customers we bring on and the more (people we hire).”
As proof of its expansion efforts, Rodriguez says Lone Star is adding 1,854 square feet to its current 1,535-square-foot space that it is leasing at a six-story office complex at 40 NE Loop 410. The bank has also leased 4,855 square feet of office space at the Renaissance Center, 930 Proton and Hardy Oak.
“We also have offers on some properties on Sonterra Boulevard and a back-up on Stone Oak Parkway, but we want to get the bankers here first,” Rodriguez says. “To take care of customers, you have to have buildings and technology, but (people) are most important to us because our intent is to offer personal service.”
Alonzo Cantu, Lone Star chairman of the board and president of McAllen-based Cantu Construction, was an initial investor who has been instrumental in the success and growth of the bank.
“I saw it as an opportunity to serve the small business needs in the Valley because most small businesses depend on community banks to grow and prosper,” Cantu says, adding that Lone Star’s niche is small business proprietors such as restaurant owners and plumbers, as well as professionals, including doctors, lawyers and accountants.
The McAllen native says he feels a sense of pride knowing his investment and belief in the future of Lone Star has paid dividends for the bank’s customers.
“I feel good about it because we’ve helped businesses grow by loaning them money and helping them accomplish their dreams, and in the process, we’ve also been able to grow,” Cantu says. “It’s also a good feeling to be driving down the highway and seeing all these buildings and businesses that you have helped succeed.”
Reflecting on the significance of “Lone Star,” Rodriguez offers his opinion of what it means to him – and with any luck, to San Antonio consumers.
“In terms of our corporate values, we have customer focus, teamwork, respect, integrity and excellence,” Rodriguez says. “They are all tied together because you can’t provide customer service without having a good team, and the team will not gain trust without integrity and a continued desire to improve, which is what it means to achieve excellence. That’s what we’re about.”
Lone Star National Bank is a subsidiary of bank holding company Lone Star National Bancshares –Texas Inc., which reported $2.1 billion in assets at the 2010 yearend. For more information, visit www.lonestarnationalbank.com or call 210-572-3220.
“Our philosophy has always been to work hard for the customer and never take their business for granted.”
“We’ve helped businesses grow by loaning them money and helping them accomplish their dreams, and in the process, we’ve also been able to grow.”