First American Bank and Trust: Treat your team like family

First American Bank and Trust, Vacherie, Louisiana

First American Bank and Trust’s team includes (from left) Marissa Bahena, head teller; Kathy Richardson, executive vice president and compliance officer; and Ronnie Falgoust, president and CEO.

Name: First American Bank and Trust
Assets: $1 billion
Location: Vacherie, Louisiana
fabt.com


Marissa Bahena knows firsthand what it means to be treated like family at $1 billion-asset First American Bank and Trust, which has been led by the Falgoust family for decades. (At the time of judging, it was listed at $945 million in assets.)

“Last year, something tragic in my family happened,” says Bahena, head teller at one of the community bank’s Thibodaux, La., branches. “Management was just really supportive. They told me to take as much time off work as I needed and they were willing to help in any kind of way. Everybody is more like family, not a number on a payroll.”

“When we work, we have fun at the same time as we attend to our customers, so it’s a win-win.”
—Marissa Bahena, First American Bank and Trust

The supportive culture permeates the organization. “We grow on each other,” Bahena says. “When we work, we have fun at the same time as we attend to our customers, so it’s a win-win.”

Who else won?

See the other Best Community Banks to Work For winners. Or see what trends came out of our survey.

Kathy Richardson, executive vice president and compliance officer, agrees. “I’ve been here going on 31 years. That should say something,” she says. “I drive 40 miles to get to work. I live just outside of New Orleans and have many opportunities to work close to home, but I choose to come here for many reasons.”

Early in her career, Richardson worked for bigger banks “where employees were afraid to talk to the executives,” but she says the opposite is true at First American Bank and Trust.

“We encourage our employees to give us their opinion on how to improve things or what could make their jobs easier,” Richardson says. “Everyone can just pick up the phone and talk to the president or to the executive vice presidents. They don’t have to go through anyone to get to them.”

First American Bank and Trust, Vacherie, Louisiana

First American Bank and Trust staff celebrated the holidays with employees and their loved ones.

A family atmosphere

First American Bank and Trust fosters employee engagement by holding a number of award recognition programs and events for employees, including a Team Spirit Award in which monthly winners are treated to an annual appreciation dinner. There’s also an annual 5K race and a holiday party in December with gifts for all of the employees’ children.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs of employees have been especially noted, Richardson says.

“When we closed the branches, and frontline staff had to stay home but couldn’t work, everyone remained on full salary,” she says. “For those who could work at home, the company has been very understanding of letting them continue if they are having problems finding child care for their kids.”

First American Bank and Trust, Vacherie, Louisiana -- former employee J.B. Falgoust

The community bank honors veterans, including former employee J.B. Falgoust who retired from the bank in 2016 after 63 years.

The Falgoust family takes an active role in the bank’s daily operations, says Ronnie Falgoust, president and CEO. His father worked there for 63 years; he has been there for 26 years; and his sisters—the human resources director and the marketing director—are going on 30 years.

Management works hard to extend this family atmosphere to the community bank’s entire workforce, Falgoust says.

“We do all that we can to make sure they are taken care of, so they actually like working for the bank,” he says. “Our No. 1 mission is to provide excellent customer service, and if our employees are happy, then they provide great customer service.”

Top Tips: First American Bank and Trust

1. Treat employees like family.
In their responses to our survey, 99% of employees said that First American Bank and Trust in Vacherie, La., encourages management to be visible and accessible; that leadership is compassionate and cares; and that the work environment reflects a balance of work and life.

2. Listen to your employees and make them feel like their opinions matter.
“They are the ones who serve the customers, and they are free to take action to implement their ideas to improve customer service,” says Kathy Richardson, executive vice president and compliance officer, of First American Bank and Trust’s staff. Employees gave top scores to the community bank for fostering an environment that enables them to accept responsibility and personal accountability, make decisions to get the job done and work together to achieve business goals.


Katie Kuehner-Hebert is a writer in California.

Top