Monday, May 16, 2011

Wanted: A Financial Mentor!

He never embezzled any funds.   He did not take advantage of people in business deals.  He treated all of his customers with the same level of fairness and dignity.  In fact, he dealt with the young adult just getting started in life in the same manner as he would an individual who already possessed significant assets.

The man’s name is Tommy Wallace.  He retired a few weeks ago after 64 years in the banking business.  A lot has changed in banking during 6 decades.  The idea of a global economy as we understand it today was unheard of when Mr. Wallace first started his career.  But there are some things should remain unchanged.

Honesty and good business ethics are timeless qualities.  Refusing to loan someone money in some cases is the best thing for the borrower!   Lending institutions have been known to extend credit to individuals whom they knew had limited resources to manage the subsequent payments.  Mr. Wallace tried to do what he felt was right for everyone involved.

In 1980, I fell in love with a 1979 Chevy Silverado that was on the used car lot at the local dealership in Lubbock.   I am sure that dealership had a finance manager that could have potentially preyed on my youthful enthusiasm.   But my mother advised me to go to Plains National Bank and talk to Mr. Wallace.

At age 18, I never listened to my mother. Why would I heed her advice on my first car deal? I think it had something to do with a little matter bankers called “co-signing” back then.  She told me to clean up and put on nice clothes before I went to the bank.   I made a quick trip to Plains National Bank, because I was convinced there was a line of people just waiting to purchase that truck!

Mr. Wallace was the president of the bank.  He also knew that I ran around with his daughter, Sheryl.  I was no angel in those days, so I did not see that as a factor that would work in my favor.  I thought to myself: if I had a daughter would I want her to run around with me?  It did not take long to reach a verdict on that question.

After a cordial conversation, he reached in his desk drawer and pulled out a loan agreement. (No computers in a banker’s office in 1980!)  He simply asked me how much I needed.  I signed the document and took the pink copy with me that day. There was no co-signer.  I had no credit to check at age 18.   I walked out of the bank agreeing to make payments of $112.00 a month for three years. I ending up paying it off in two years.

I am thankful that Mr. Wallace’s career has come to an end, so he can enjoy his children and grandchildren.  But I am also sad and nostalgic.  My children will not have a similar experience as they get started in life.  Banking is more complicated today.  But most of all I am just overwhelmed with gratitude for a financial mentor.  Congratulations on retirement Mr. Wallace. 

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