The Business of Community Building

TxCDC President Suzanna Caballero Has Made a Career Out of Community Building, One Business at a Time

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In retrospect, Suzanna Caballero’s life experiences have served as the perfect preparation for her role as president of Texas Certified Development Company (TxCDC).

Take, for instance, her childhood. Caballero spent many evenings listening to her parents – both of whom were in the banking business in Austin – talk about their work as well as the professional opportunities they had to benefit their community. Those conversations greatly influenced Caballero’s career decision because she wanted a job that would let her participate with community development.

By her senior year in high school, Caballero was employed in a bank that was within walking distance of her home. Initially starting in the bank’s credit card business, Caballero eventually became the executive assistant for the executive vice president of operations. By the age of 23, Caballero already was managing one of the bank’s departments. Eventually, Caballero’s resume of 30-plus years in banking also would include significant time in commercial business lending as well as serving in the top leadership positions.

Her long tenure in banking also has allowed Caballero to have a firsthand view of the industry’s evolution. “I really liked being able to go through the many changes that banking has made,” she said. “When I first started in the operations department, we had the really, really big computers and everyone depended on the mainframe and it took a lot of specialists to do everything. Now so much of what we do is at our desk on the computer. Because of these various opportunities, I was able to see the big picture in banking and how it worked.”

Caballero also has firsthand knowledge of the challenges facing a small business. Her initial exposure involved assisting her husband when he took over his family’s moving company. “I got an indoctrination into entrepreneurship really quickly,” Caballero stated. “I handled everything that wasn’t involved in doing the actual work of moving. My husband managed the crews, the trucks and the equipment. I had my own full-time job, but in the evenings I’d do the bookkeeping and try to determine if he was pricing right and what marketing he should be doing.”

A few years later, Caballero found herself in the top leadership role in a small business when starting a new bank in East Austin. “We had every aspect that any small business would have, from how do we market to what our new logo was going to be,” she recounted. “The bank had to construct a building, build a customer base and identify a revenue stream to cover expenses.” She worked with the board and the staff to build that new business into a very successful bank that held, among others, TxCDC’s account. When the bank was sold to a larger institution, Caballero moved to Washington Mutual where she again built a new team and developed a customer base.

A few years later, Caballero was recruited to take the TxCDC presidency. “I immediately knew after being here for a short period of time that my outside view of how good the service was from this team was accurate,” she explained. “The staff’s number one priority is making sure that customer relationships and banker relationships were good. It gave me the opportunity to reach out to some new bankers who had never worked with Texas Certified before. It gave us the opportunity to collaborate on better processes so that we can do more loans and help more clients with different financings.”

That focus has resulted in TxCDC doubling its volume during the past year. Caballero also credits this increase to strategic staffing decisions, including hiring a former banker to coordinate the application process and help with underwriting, reassigning a senior staff member to a “floater” position to assist where needed, and adding a University of Texas intern who provides critical support.

While continuing to refine TxCDC’s processes and staffing, Caballero continues to have one primary goal for the organization’s future.  “I want us to make as many loans as we possibly can make and still keep the service at a high level,” the TxCDC president said. “So we may not be the CDC that does the most loans, but we’re going to be the CDC that people are still smiling about after getting their loan.”

By Dorian Martin