2 min read December 2021 — San Antonio’s financial landscape has exploded over the past year and the forecast is for continued growth. Gary Dudley, president of diversified financial services company SWBC, and Charlie Amato, the company’s chairman, share why they are bullish on the future of the area’s financial services landscape.
What have been the biggest ways in which SWBC has evolved over the past year?
Charlie Amato: Over the last year, the financial services business has been the business to be in. Needless to say, our mortgage banking operation has just exploded. We are now servicing $14 billion worth of mortgages. Another division that has exploded is our real estate development business. We build multifamily housing and we have built over $300 million worth of real estate developments in the region. With the cost of housing and raw materials where they are now — housing costs are going up on a daily basis — rentals and multifamily have become very popular businesses, and good businesses to be in.
What strategies are you devising around talent in the era of the Great Resignation?
Amato: We find a lot of our senior management talent through our relationships or through the relationships of people we know. That is the best referral source. It’s about who you know and who you connect with. We also rely on professional recruiters who work here and can find that key talent for us. When I’m not in the office, I’m doing two things: I’m either selling or recruiting. We all do community work with universities, hospitals and the Fed. We are always meeting people, so you are either selling or recruiting one way or the other. The latter is the lifeblood of your company.
Gary Dudley: We have to work toward today, understand what is popular and figure out ways to address that. We sent over 2,000 people home in March 2020 and had them working from laptops and tablets within days and did not miss a beat. Our business continuity/disaster recovery team was going through a pandemic exercise when one actually occurred. They helped us through that, and that helped us grow the relationship between our employees and us.
What are the key factors that make an area prime for SWBC’s footprint?
Amato: We look at the economic impact of that particular community that we want to go into. We do a much better job of that now than we used to. Twenty-five years ago, it used to be a crapshoot; now we actually do our homework. We look at the growth in those communities, the number of financial institutions, the housing market and the rental market, depending on which businesses we are looking at that we are involved in. We are more strategic about it.
What are SWBC’s differentiating factors that make it stand apart from its competition?
Dudley: JP Morgan ranks us as the largest privately held financial services company in the nation. Our cybersecurity team totals 22 people today, led by a former military member who happened to be working in the Pentagon during the 9/11 crisis. That and our compliance team and director for compliance rules and regulations are our sharpest edges. We also do our own marketing with a full-fledged marketing department. A lot of our divisions are complementary to other divisions.
What technological advances does SWBC have in the pipeline?
Amato: We spend significant resources on technology. We are constantly looking at complementary acquisitions and mergers. It is a continuous effort.
Dudley: We are assessing all of our divisions to see what we can do to make our business better. We have a lot of people who spend time referring one of our divisions to one of our customers back and forth. We need to ensure all are constantly delivering. We spent a significant amount of time and resources making each one of our divisions the very best it can be. A lot of times, that means acquiring another company, acquiring programmers or upgrading our software.
What is your overall outlook over the next three to five years?
Amato: The outlook over the next three–to-five years will probably depend a lot on the administration in Washington, D.C., since we do business in all 50 states and need to gauge how the decisions being made will either have positive or negative impacts on our various divisions. A lot of people do not take that seriously. We do. We have to because we have to know where mortgage interest rates are going to go. We know they are going to start going up in 2022, albeit not at what point. Inflation is getting out of hand. There are several dangers over the next two-to-three years with higher interest rates and to what degree we are going to be able to control inflation. The Fed cannot do that alone. The administration has to help with that. Texas, in particular, is a pro-business state and does not have a state income tax.
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