First Texas Bank aims to be continued staple in Liberty Hill community

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By Rachel Madison

Most community banks can say they have a strong focus on customer service, but what they all can’t say is that they’ve had a presence in their communities for more than 100 years. But First Texas Bank can.

The bank, which has the second oldest charter in the state, was founded in Georgetown 121 years ago. It has since grown to include eight branches in Williamson and Travis counties and boasts $650 million in assets. The Liberty Hill branch has been open for 18 years and has an asset size of approximately $54 million and a staff of six.

“We got out a little ahead of the growth curve of Liberty Hill, because our branch has been here for years and grown steady over that time,” said Van Swift, president and CEO of First Texas Bank.

He added that the main reason First Texas has been around for over a century is because the bank’s business model is different from most other banks.

“We’re here for the long haul,” he said. “We have a different strategy for expansion. We expand as the market allows, and what separates us from the pack is providing the level of service that everyone says they can offer. But we can offer long-term stability.”

Gilbert Moreno, branch executive and vice president for First Texas Bank’s Liberty Hill location, recently joined the local branch as its leader. He came to the bank with nine years of banking experience and a degree from Sam Houston State University. His goals at First Texas are to get to know his customers and their families, as well as their backgrounds.

“At the end of the day, I’m not just looking at a person who is borrowing money, I’m looking at a part of the community,” he said. “I like getting to know the people and their families. I’m here to help people grow and assist them in any way they need. I’m here to help, not just to push loans.”

Swift said First Texas Bank can offer everything from $20,000 loans to $2 million lines of credit. The bank has no minimum loan size. It also offers home lending, home construction loans, commercial real estate financing, custom loans and more.

“I think people gravitate to a bank like this because of the long-term opportunity to build a book for business,” he added. “It’s very gratifying to sit with a customer you’ve dealt with for 25 years and have them say they would tell anyone they’re successful because they have a good banker in their corner. That’s why our bank can help a community like Liberty Hill. If you go back and look at history, the towns that prosper over time always have a good community bank.”

Another aspect that makes First Texas stand out from other banks is the fact that it is never more than 45 percent loan-to-deposit, Swift said.

“We’re a $650 million bank, but our loans are only $250 million,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for banks to be 80 to 100 percent loans-to-deposit. But if you’re going to do that for a long time, the economy will catch you at some point. If you’re going to own a bank and be successful for over 100 years, you can’t take on that much level of risk. That’s why we limit ourselves to slow and steady growth. Our ownership and board are willing to accept that slow, steady growth.”

Swift added that First Texas Bank has plenty of room for growth—especially in the Liberty Hill area—as the market allows.

“We can keep pace with the area,” he said. “Out here, the sky is the limit. Now that so many rooftops are here, the businesses are going to come—all the basic things people need. When they first put this branch out here, (US Hwy) 183 wasn’t even a divided road. The bank was in the middle of nowhere. But because we were the only ones out here for a long time, we have been able to build a tremendous amount of business customers.”

As the Liberty Hill area continues to grow, Swift said the bank will add services as needed.

“The next step will be to put a mortgage lending officer out here,” he said. “It’s hard to say when that will happen, because we’re going to be pushing the string, not pulling it. This branch has the most opportunity of any of our branches. We’ll continue to do what we’ve been doing by providing service and everything else will fall in place behind it.”

Moreno’s personal goal for his branch is to be the place that everyone tells their friends about.

“I want to be sure that when someone mentions us, people will tell their friends they need to bank with us,” he said. “My goal is to be the banker that everyone says you need to go see.”

Swift said the ultimate goal of First Texas Bank is to be around for another century or even longer.

“We’re never going to take on enough risk where we can fail,” he said. “First Texas Bank is extremely strong. I can tell you we would be the last bank in Williamson County to fail. We have a strong business model that focuses on long-term success and having a great team.”

First Texas Bank’s Liberty Hill location, at 721 U.S. Hwy 183, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.firsttexasbank.com.

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