Chris Furlow

Chris Furlow
TBA President & CEO

Weather at its worst, bankers at their best

At least half of our banks remained open even through the most severe hours of the storm ...

As we go to print for the March edition of Texas Banking, it is the end of an icy February week that brought our state its worst winter weather event in decades.

Winter Storm Uri has been brutal to Texas. Roads have been impassable. Millions have been without power and heat for days. The food and fuel supply chain has been disrupted. Busted pipes and mains have made potable water scarce in communities across the state. And many of our family members and friends have been stranded.

Banks and bank employees have been impacted, too, both at home and at work.

On Feb. 19, the Texas Department of Banking reported to the state Finance Commission that approximately 40% of state-chartered banks needed to close the bank or branches temporarily. The Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending reported that about 50% of state savings banks had temporary closures of some kind. OCC-regulated banks likely had similar numbers.

What is amazing from those figures is that at least half of our banks remained open even through the most severe hours of the storm that witnessed below zero temperatures in the Panhandle, ice-bent pines in East Texas as well as sleet and snow in Galveston and El Paso.

While most businesses completely shut down for the week, Texas bankers stepped up again in crisis. Even at banks that needed to close temporarily for safety reasons, most were back open as soon as the storm subsided and roads were passable.

Bankers across Texas were concerned about their customers. Like Steve Mack of Texas Heritage Bank in Boerne, they wanted to ensure that small businesses would still get PPP funding in spite of storm delays. They wanted to ensure that customers had access to their accounts to buy food and medicine.

“It’s remarkable,” Commissioner Charles Cooper told me. “COVID, Washington and Mother Nature have thrown everything at our bankers over the last year, but they have been resilient.”

Indeed, February 2021 added another layer of disaster to a year’s worth of disruption from the pandemic, social unrest and a poisonous political environment. Yet Texas bankers have persevered.

Before the week was out, the Texas Bankers Foundation — through the generous support of banks and bank employees — contributed another $26,000 to the Feeding Texas Network. This was on top of the nearly $1 million in donations made by banks during the pandemic for the Texas Banks 4 Food Banks program. You literally helped to put food on the table for your fellow Texans at a time when the shelves at grocery stores and food pantries were nearly barren.

As Foundation Chair Lizzie Williams of Amarillo National Bank said, “Texas bankers are moving quickly to help because we know our communities are in great need due to the compounded effects of the historic winter storm and the pandemic.”

Over and over again, when times are at their worst, Texas bankers are at their best for their neighbors and communities.