15 Minutes With…Travis Kemp

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Travis Kemp recently earned a master’s degree in finance from Southern Methodist University.

Vice President and Credit Officer for the $225 Million-Asset TFNB—Your Bank for Life in McGregor, Texas

IB: What are your responsibilities as a credit officer?
Kemp
: When I started working at the bank about six years ago, they didn’t have a formal credit department. I started as our first official credit analyst. I, basically, came in and was charged with creating a credit department. A lot of it has been about getting the infrastructure in place and then creating something that can grow with the bank.

The bank has almost doubled in assets size since I started. Now we’ve grown to where more people handle a lot of the financial analysis, and I get more involved in the high-level discussions of strategic decision-making—of how we can grow and stay ahead of the curve, and ahead of the regulations. We also closely monitor some of our larger credits just to help mitigate risk within the overall loan portfolio.

IB: What was it like to build a credit department from scratch?
Kemp: When I first started, I was about 22 years old and was straight out of Baylor University, so it was a very tall order. Once I got my feet wet, I was able to gain momentum. The training and resources were there for me to go and attend seminars, to watch webinars.

I’ve been able to standardize much of the credit analysis. You don’t want to get too concentrated in different types of credits. That’s been a lot of my job is to make sure that overall our concentrations stay within our comfort level, but then also that individual credits that we put within those larger concentrations fit our risk appetite.

IB: Credit analysis software must be extremely helpful.
Kemp:
It is. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to do a credit memo without the use of technology. When I started at the bank, we had a piece of software that we created internally that was driven by a Microsoft Access database. We’re looking to migrate into something that’s a little more integrated, something that does a lot of the work for you in terms of manually inputting the data. You just click, click, drop, and there it is.
The little bit of learning that you have to do to figure out how to use the software saves you so much time over the long run. All this new technology at your fingertips is constantly evolving and getting better.

IB: What’s most rewarding about your job?
Kemp:
The numbers part I really enjoy, especially building the credit department and having a lot of inputs into how it runs and functions day to day. Then in terms of being a community banker and a people person, with all the growth that’s going on in Waco, there’s constantly new stuff, new ideas, new customers wanting to build this or to make that.
I always enjoy getting a new loan request and then looking to see at what’s coming into Waco. And then being a part of it, being able to work on the deal to make it happen—to see it all the way to completion.

IB: Tell me about your bank and its marketplace.
Kemp
: McGregor is a suburb of Waco, which is experiencing a lot of growth right now. It’s located almost halfway between Houston, Dallas and Austin, and San Antonio. It’s right on the I-35 corridor between all the major metropolitan centers in Texas. And there’s a lot of commerce that travels through Waco.
I don’t know if you’ve watched Fixer Upper on TV with Chip and Joanna Gaines. They’re headquartered in Waco, and that’s put Waco on the map.
The city of Waco is also trying to bring in more high-tech jobs, more jobs for young college grads. Baylor is doing its part to help. Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is also testing its rockets in McGregor, and that’s bringing in a lot of young rocket scientists and engineers who work with the company and the rockets that it has.
Baylor University is in Waco, and up until a month ago things got shaken up a little bit there. But prior to that, in the last five to 10 years or so, the university’s football team has been rocking and rolling. The athletic department has been rocking and rolling. That’s been bringing in a ton of people to Waco, and that’s a lot of commerce and growth.

IB: The local job market must be strong.
Kemp
: We’ve had a lot of new customers coming into town for various reasons. We’ve had customers move here to work with the businesses that we’ve worked with. We’ve also had new customers who have lived here all along who have started a business to capitalize on all the momentum in the Waco economy.
The population of Waco itself is about 120,000, but of the entire metro area, it’s probably about 250,000. It’s big enough to have all the conveniences of a big city without the headaches of traffic. McGregor is about a 10- to 15-minute drive to Waco.

IB: Tell me about TFNB—Your Bank for Life. What’s the branding concept behind your bank’s name?
Kemp:
Originally our name was The First National Bank of McGregor, but we’re expanding out of the McGregor market and into the Waco market. For that reason, we thought the name of TFNB is not as confusing as The First National Bank McGregor might be.
We’re one of the oldest banks operating under the original charter in the state of Texas. Through the rebranding, we wanted to show that we’re growing into the future and that we’re here to stay.

IB: What’s the concept behind ‘Your Bank for Life’?
Kemp:
We wanted to convey that we’ll be your bank for all phases of life, and we do that through our three different types of accounts for people of different ages, from students to seniors. We want people to grow with us, so we can be their bank for life. That’s where the slogan came from.

IB: Does your branding include younger people?
Kemp:
That’s the plan. Within as recently as a month or two ago, we announced that we purchased a property right across the interstate from Baylor University. And so we’re looking to expand and build a branch there within the next 12 months.

IB: So you have all the digital stuff young people like?
Kemp:
We’re working on that. We’ve got a mobile app. We’ve got Internet banking. And we’re working on expanding those. Our IT department has been very active in getting that up and running, working out the bugs and then growing it.

IB: Congratulations are in order; you recently earned a master’s degree.
Kemp:
Yes, I’ve wanted a master’s degree since I was probably a junior or senior in high school. When I was deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, I decided I wanted to be the CFO of a Fortune 500 company. I did a little bit of digging and I saw that a constant among CFOs was an MBA.
After working at the bank for about two or three years, I decided it was time to get my MBA. The bank offered to let me get a part-time MBA in finance. They didn’t want me to do a full-time MBA program and have to leave the workforce for two years and lose the continuity in the credit department.
I chose a part-time program at Southern Methodist University. And SMU is a good school. It’s highly regarded for its MBAs, especially in the Dallas and Texas areas. The part-time program allows me the flexibility to work while also going to school.

IB: SMU is a long drive from Waco. Did you do a lot of online coursework?
Kemp
: I had to actually physically report for class. I would go Thursday evenings. I would leave work around 2 p.m. and drive up to Dallas and go to class and come back Thursday night. I’d get back about midnight or so and go to work Friday the next morning. Then Saturday classes were from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
I was driving 1,000 miles back and forth to classes each week and working a 30- or 40-hour week.

IB: Now that you’ve got the vellum in hand, what’s the value of an MBA?
Kemp:
I’m just starting to get comfortable managing people and learning how different people interact with each other. The MBA has taught me a lot about managing people, but it has also taught me a lot about strategic decision-making. As our bank continues to grow and expands beyond just the McGregor market, that’s something that could really be beneficial to the bank.

IB: How did you become a community banker?
Kemp:
I was working for Baylor at the time, and I wanted to be an investment banker on Wall Street at the time. It was about 2009 and 2010, after the market blew up. I was talking to people at the big banks and they weren’t hiring.
I was talking with a lady I worked with about credit analysis, and she told me her husband was good friends with a banker in town. It was a banker at First National Bank of McGregor. So she put me in touch with him. He and I went out and had lunch. Later, I went out and met the president of the bank.
What started off as a lunch turned into a job offer.

IB: You’re still young. What advice do you have for how community bankers can develop their future leaders?
Kemp:
I would say to keep them involved. For me, it was bringing me in and then involving me in the day-to-day decisions and making me feel like I could participate and contribute. That empowered me and excited me and made me want to come to work every day.

IB: What do you do for fun?
Kemp:
I love to travel, so any opportunity I get to just hop in the car and go somewhere, or to hop on a plane and go check something out, I really enjoy doing.
I also like to trade stocks. I like to follow the markets and manage some personal investments. When I was getting my MBA, I learned a lot about the markets from the institutional side, but it’s fun to take that knowledge and apply it to my own personal investments.

IB: Are you ahead of the market?
Kemp: I’m ahead right now.

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