15 Minutes With…Richard Chávez

Senior vice president of commercial lending at the $3.1 billion-asset Enterprise Bank in Lowell, Mass.

IB: Many of your clients are immigrants who used to distrust banks. In what ways do you win customers’ confidence?

Chávez: I am an immigrant, so I understand the fear that people may have. In their countries of origin, you have a well-to-do financial institution today, and it will not be standing tomorrow. The doors will be shut. Being new immigrants, they don’t fully understand the [U.S.] system. When I first started in banking 19 years ago, we had customers who were bringing in cash to closings because they didn’t know any better. An important part of what I do is educate my customers.

IB: On average, you make more than 100 loans per year. What is your strategy?

Chávez: Here at the bank, we live by two rules. One of them is, the buck stops here. So if you call me, somebody will answer the phone, and if I don’t have an answer to your question, I will find somebody who has it. The other rule is the sundown rule: If you call or email me today, I will return your phone call or email before I go home, as long as I’m in my office. Those two things have allowed us to develop a referral level that is just unbelievable

IB: You are a founding board member of Lowell Community Charter Public School. How does this school bring students from different backgrounds together?

Chávez: The charter school opened in 2000. [The year] 1997 was a tough [one] for Lowell, Mass. Lowell is a large immigrant community, and the youngsters from the Latino community and the Southeast Asian community were not getting along well, and I’m talking about gang-related issues. We adults got together and concluded that in order for them to live together, they needed to learn about each other. It’s the only school in the city that has a gifted and talented program. The building where the school is housed used to be a mill [Appleton Manufacturing Company] where, more than 100 years ago, immigrant kids would come to work. Now, it’s serving to educate the sons and daughters of immigrants.
—Andrea Lahouze

Quick facts

  • Chávez and his family immigrated to the U.S. from Ecuador when he was 15.
  • His two teenage children attended the K-8 Lowell Community Charter Public School, which he helped to establish in 2000.
  • Chávez says his education and who he is as an individual define him. “If I can keep those two things intact,” he says, “then I can get up and go anywhere.”