Mr. Christopher J. Furlow

President & CEO
Texas Bankers Association

Chris Furlow is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Texas Bankers Association, America’s oldest and largest state banking organization. TBA advocates for nearly 400 of its member banks in Austin and Washington; trains more than 10,000 bankers annually; provides nationally-recognized community banking services in 48 states; and invests in Texas communities through financial literacy, scholarship and charitable activities. Under Chris’ leadership, TBA has launched ground-breaking community bank cybersecurity and bank innovation capabilities and has successfully challenged Washington’s regulatory over-reach. Chris’ professional career has prepared him well to meet the competitive, regulatory and cybersecurity challenges facing Texas banks. Previously, he was President of Ridge Global, an international risk management consulting firm, where he helped clients in banking/financial services, energy, defense and other critical infrastructure sectors leverage resilience for competitive advantage. He was instrumental in developing the Cyber-Risk Oversight Certificate Program for the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD). Furlow has an extensive background in complex policy/regulatory issues in both the public and private sectors. Following the 9/11 attacks, he was named Director for State Affairs in the White House Office of Homeland Security where he served as liaison to the America’s governors and was a member of the Incident Support Group providing coordination on events of “national significance.” During the historic stand-up of the US Department of Homeland Security, he was appointed Executive Director of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC) where he led operations of the department’s cross-disciplinary public and private sector committees and served as a senior advisor to Secretary Tom Ridge. Chris brings nearly 30 years of legislative and political experience to TBA’s advocacy efforts. He has served as a US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, as a state and national party leader, and as aide to a member of the US House Ways & Means Committee. Today, he is a member of the Executive Committee of the State Alliance of the American Bankers Association and is a board member of the Coalition of Bankers Associations. Chris currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Southwest Graduate School of Banking (SWGSB) Foundation at Southern Methodist University and on the Smith-Hutson Banking Advisory Board at Sam Houston State University. He was previously an adjunct professor for the Chief Risk Officer (CRO) program at Carnegie Mellon University and was a Senior Fellow for the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. In 2023, Chris was appointed to a third term representing the private sector as a member of Texas Cybersecurity Council. He previously served on the US Chamber of Commerce National Security Task Force and Cybersecurity Leadership Council. He is a member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House, London). Thought-leadership articles authored or co-authored by Furlow have appeared in publications such as Harvard Business Review, ABA Banking Journal, The Dallas Morning News, and International Policy Digest.

Mr. John R. Brigance

Chief Operating Officer
Texas Bankers Association

John Brigance serves as Chief Operating Officer for the Texas Bankers Association (TBA), where he oversees the bulk of association operations along with special projects. John joined TBA in the fall of 2002 as Executive Director of the Wealth Management & Trust division and transitioned roles in 2012 to support a broader range of strategic functions. Prior to joining TBA, John worked in a number of capacities for the American Chemistry Council (Washington, DC) over 12 years, starting in government relations and ultimately serving as Managing Director of an international program for the association. John is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and currently resides in Austin with his wife; they have two sons.

Ms. Sarah Maldonado

Vice President of Human Resources
Texas Bankers Association

Sarah Maldonado, MHRM, SHRM-CP, joined the Texas Bankers Association in the role of Vice President, Human Resources. She received her bachelor’s degree from Washington State University and her master’s in human resource management from Keller Graduate School. With more than a decade of experience, Maldonado has worked virtually every area of HR, with the majority of experience being within the construction and real estate development industry. She is a long-time member of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), as well as the local chapter AHRMA. Maldonado holds the SHRM-Certified Professional designation and is certified as a Department of One.

Mr. Rich Perez

Vice President of Bank Innovation
Texas Bankers Association

Rich Perez serves as the Vice President of Bank Innovation. Leading the charge on our Community Bank Innovation Magnet program and helping shepherd our “future of banking” initiatives, Rich brings to the table 15 years of experience defining and delivering highly profitable and innovative products and digital solutions. He has spent the majority of his career in contract negotiations, designing and developing strategic digital solutions, researching innovative products and services to meet customer needs and overseeing user experience enhancements. He is an established leader in building and driving user-focused, cross-functional product design and development.

Mr. Alvin Mills

Vice President of Information Technology & Security
Texas Bankers Association

Alvin has been a cybersecurity expert with over 26 years of experience in security infrastructure deployment and management, including project/people management. He has served in several roles within Information Technology & Cybersecurity from network security engineer, manager, director, Vice President, and Chief Information Security Officer. Prior to joining TBA in March of 2019, he was the CISO for Farm Credit Bank of Texas, a large wholesale lending Bank covering Associations in five states. Alvin is also Adjunct Faculty with the University of Maryland Global Campus. In his 9 years in teaching, his courses are for cybersecurity leaders and managers, evaluating emerging technologies, practical applications in cybersecurity management, and foundations in cybersecurity. Alvin received his MSBA from Texas Tech University, Rawls College of Business. He and his wife reside in Liberty Hill, TX.

Ms. Heather Ruschitzko, CPA

Chief Financial Officer
Texas Bankers Association

Heather Ruschitzko serves as CFO for Texas Bankers Association and all its subsidiaries. Heather is an CPA with an MBA in Corporate Finance and has over 20 years’ experience in accounting and finance.

Ms. Celeste M. Embrey

General Counsel
Texas Bankers Association

Celeste Embrey joined the TBA in November 2005. Her work focuses mainly on legislative advocacy for TBA’s 420 member banks and trust companies. She came to TBA from Countrywide Financial Corporation’s Government Affairs Department, where she was responsible for Countrywide’s state and local government relations in Texas and several east coast states. Prior to Countrywide, she worked in Washington, D.C., as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). Embrey began her legal career as General Counsel to State Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas) where she concentrated on financial services and consumer lending issues. She received her B.A. in Government, with honors, in 1994 and her J.D. from The University of Texas School of Law in 1998.

Mr. Carlos Espinosa

Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Texas Bankers Association

Carlos Espinosa leads the communications and marketing division for the Texas Bankers Association. He is an experienced strategic communications, government affairs, and policy advisor with a demonstrated history of working on complex issues. He previously led the communications effort for the Texas Railroad Commission Chairman, several members of congress and a technology company in the data privacy space. Carlos also has a long record of serving as a communication, political and policy advisor to dozens of state and federally elected officials, celebrities, shared economy startups, and fortune 500 companies. He was also a writer and contributing editor to National Journal Magazine, and The Hotline. Has degrees in International Affairs and Management.

Ms. Brandy Garner

Vice President
Texas Bankers Association

Brandy Garner serves as Vice President for Professional Development and Events. Brandy previously served as assistant vice president on our events and education team. She leads our team providing educational forums and experiences for bankers through a wide array of schools, seminars, webinars and conferences, including our annual convention. Brandy has been with TBA since 2015. She previously served as a training specialist and association member services manager during her 20+-year career.

Ms. Chelsea Brown

Executive Director, Wealth Management & Trust and SWABC/VP Strategic Initiatives
Texas Bankers Association

Chelsea Brown brings more than 15 years of expertise to the association, including political affairs, event management and member education. She recently served as chief of staff and political director for Congressman Jodey Arrington where she successfully managed over 25 people and a million-dollar budget.? Brown joined the U.S. House of Representatives after college and worked her way up through the ranks from staff assistant to the director of operations and member education. She then went on to serve as the director of accounts at DC London Inc. and as political director for Epiphany Productions. Brown holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Texas Christian University.

Mr. Ben Buehler

TBA Services Company, Inc.

Ben serves as the president of the TBA Services Company (TBASCO). He has an extensive background in the financial services industry and broad experience developing association programs, including endorsements, partnerships and membership programs. As president, he oversees operations for TBASCO, including due diligence for new partnerships, relationship management, budgeting and monitoring key performance indicators. Ultimately, the services offered by the company support financial institutions and enhance their competitiveness by expanding their retail offerings and improving their operations.

Mr. Scott Daugherty

President/General Counsel
Bankers Alliance

Scott Daugherty serves as the president and general counsel for Bankers Alliance. Through Bankers Alliance, he oversees Compliance Alliance and Review Alliance. Daugherty was an integral part of Compliance Alliance's startup and growth from its inception in 2011 and has been integral to the start-up of Bankers Alliance in 2018. Prior to Compliance Alliance, he joined the legal staff of the Texas Bankers Association in 2003, serving as the primary contact for the legal and compliance hotline, while also tackling legislative issues. Prior to joining TBA, Daugherty worked for Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison, a 950 attorney international law firm based in California. Prior to law school, he enjoyed a career in banking with a broad background that includes retail and branch management, and consumer and commercial lending responsibilities.

Mr. Brien G. O'Connor

Bankers Insurance Agency

Brien O’Connor has been in the insurance industry for over 35 years and has been with TBA since 1989, where he heads up TBAs Bankers Insurance Agency. Brien specializes in bank insurance coverages – Financial Institution Bonds, Directors and Officers Liability, Cyber Liability and Commercial Package coverages. Brien has taught thousands of bankers and held classes in these topics as well as been an expert witness for the FDIC in cases involving Financial Institution Bonds. Bankers Insurance Agency insures over 250 banks across Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas.

Ms. Michele Carfello

Vice President of Member Relations
Texas Bankers Association

Michele Carfello is a Member Relations Officer and is responsible for maintaining and growing member relationships. She began her banking career with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Houston Branch in 1998 and spent 10 years with Frost Bank in Correspondent Banking. Carfello is a member of Financial Women in Texas since its inception. She lives in Houston with her husband and together they have four daughters.

Ms. Mary E. Lange, CAE

Vice President of Member Relations
Texas Bankers Association

Mary Lange is part of the Member Relations Team for the Texas Bankers Association, where she listens and collaborates with bankers and staff to enhance the value of their TBA relationship. Before joining the Texas Bankers Association in 2016, she was a leader within the Independent Bankers Association of Texas and President of the IBAT Education Foundation. As a passionate and committed supporter of community bank programs to enhance personal financial education, she serves on the Board of Directors of the Texas Jumpstart Coalition and holds an active role in Financial Women in Texas. Additional achievements include serving as an examiner with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program within the U.S. Dept of Commerce. The strong relationships she has built through TBA, JumpStart, TSAE, and IBAT as well as her ability to navigate the intricacies of state agencies, serves her and those she works with very well.

Mr. Brent W. Cox

Vice President of Member Relations
Texas Bankers Association

Brent has over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry with a wide breadth of responsibilities, which include sales leadership, product development & implementation, FinTech innovation and is the owner of several technology patents. His many years of diverse experience bring a unique set of skills and knowledge to the TBA. Brent’s responsibilities within the TBA are unique and focus primarily on our alliances with undergraduate and graduate banking programs. Brent currently serves as an Advisory Board Member for banking programs at Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, Stephen F. Austin University, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and The Graduate School of Banking at LSU. In addition to his advocacy for the growth and advancement of existing banking programs, Brent is active in the development of new University programs that will advance the opportunity for increased diversity, inclusion, and talent expansion on behalf of the banking industry.