ABA Banking Journal 5/08 - (Page 26)
COVER STORY I I n his office in the Frost Bank Tower in downtown San Antonio, Dick Evans keeps two reminders of what he considers important to his 37-year career at $13.5 billion-assets Cullen/Frost Bankers, Inc. and its Frost National Bank. Both items—each quite different from the other—serve as illustrations of what leads to the kind of performance that consistently produces strong numbers for the company. Such performance placed it 17th in the ABA Banking Journal financial rankings for 2007 for institutions over $3 billion in assets. This after 140 years of up and down cycles, and in an age when pundits say there’s no room for anyone in the middle ground of bank size. “We live in the middle range,” Evans, chairman and CEO of the bank and holding company, told an analyst meeting earlier this year. “We’re kind of the last of the Mohicans. We’re large enough to do 90% of what the megabanks do, and yet we can act like a community bank.” Cullen/Frost attained record profits in 2007, a year of fallen profits or even losses for other large banking firms. And when most of the large commercial bank operations in Texas have out-of-state corporate parentage, the publicly traded holding company (CFR; NYSE) and its Frost National Bank, remain Texan. But back to those items we mentioned. You’ll find the first in a breakfront cabinet, where you’ll see two gorgeous presentation-grade Winchester repeating rifles. By the butt of one rifle, stands a single bullet. It’s no ordinary round. It’s made of silver. And Evans, 61, says it’s there as a reminder from his corporate counsel, Stan McCormick, that “there are no silver bullets, Dick.” “What is important is not that we have not had any magic formulas, because we didn’t, but that we have stayed true to the kind of bank we are, one based on relationships,” says Evans. This is a key Cullen/Frost attitude. Strictly by the book Frost National Bank, a one-state, mid-sized, 140-year-old operation thrives in Texas, guided by CEO Dick Evans and the bank’s “blue book” The book of Frost The second reminder, which you’ll usually find on Evans’ credenza, while less dramatic looking, is even more meaningful. It is a dog-eared copy of the Cullen/Frost “blue book.” Reaching behind him, during an interview, Evans grabs a large plastic sleeve. The pamphlet inside has seen hard use over the years. There are numerous underlinings, margin notes, and addenda. Evans holds up this battered item with a touch of pride. “This is not something we put on the shelf, and just hope somebody uses it,” says Evans. “It is the way we live our lives. I like to remind people that we didn’t get some hot-shot consulting firm to come in and write this. We spent a year asking ourselves, ‘How did we manage to stick around for more than 100 years?’” Actually, Evans, like every Cullen/Frost employee, By Steve Cocheo, executive editor 26 MAY 2008/ABA BANKING JOURNAL Subscribe at www.ababj.com
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