Victoria banker serves 50 years in finances, still counting
May 18, 2013 at 12:18 a.m.
Updated May 20, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.
It was determination that led the San Antonio boy with the modest upbringing to reach his first big goal: becoming the family's first grandchild to graduate college. It was that same determination, coupled with a love of the work, that led to his most recent accomplishment.
On May 3, Crossroads banker Richard Bothe received the Texas Bankers Association's 50-year Banker Award for his years of service to the industry.
"It's been very rewarding, without a doubt," he said, even factoring in the rough patches that came in the late 1980s and again several years ago. "I found something I really enjoyed."
Bothe's start in the profession wasn't intentional.
The St. Mary's University student needed a part-time job, he said, and a placement office directed him to a bank with a nighttime opening. The economics major got the job.
Shortly after, a bank officer asked whether he planned to pursue banking as a career.
"I had no previous thoughts about it," he admitted. "But he said, 'If you're interested in this business as a career, it might be something for you to think about.'"
A post-graduation trip to Dallas marked his next career move.
Bothe applied for work at Dallas' regional office for the Comptroller of the Currency before venturing on to the Midwest to visit a friend.
"While I was there, my mother called and said, 'You have a letter from the Treasury Department, and you have a job,'" he said with a laugh. "That's really how I got into the business - with no intention."
Bothe served four years with the Treasury, he said, before re-entering banking with San Antonio's Brooks Field National Bank.
He went on to become president and CEO of Main Bank and Trust while still in his 30s and to hold executive roles at other financial institutions in San Antonio and Corpus Christi.
He found his way to a San Antonio IBC in early 1994 but relocated to the Crossroads that same year, when he became president and CEO for IBC Bank-Port Lavaca.
He remained in the role for 19 years.
As with most things, he said the industry changed with time.
Technology had a significant impact, he said, recalling the days when processing a check meant that check coming in through the teller window or clearing house then making its way to the night crew, which organized - by hand - those documents by account number.
Machines were part of the posting process, he said, but weren't anything like today's computers.
Those changes mean today's banks don't need the physical presence they once did. And Port Lavaca's IBC is a prime example.
"That building is a three-story building and probably three times as much physical space as you need to operate today," he said. "But that was driven by the fact that your processes were such that you ... needed all this space."
Still, Bothe said regulatory issues trump technology when it comes to change.
Every industry needs regulations, he said, but some of the changes - primarily regarding loans - are not in the consumers' best interest.
In the past, customers wanting to borrow money spoke with someone at their bank, who wrote in the amount, interest rate and payment amount in just a few pages. With a customer signature, he said, it was done.
"Today, it's pages to do that same thing," he said, noting legal changes play a role in the change. "Today, you buy a home, and your loan package ... it's a huge volume of paper."
The working world wasn't the only thing that occupied Bothe's time through the years.
He and his wife, real estate agent Lorene Bothe, have been married 26 years, he said, and the two have what he dubbed a "Yours, Mine and Ours" family, with three boys and a girl.
Trinity Episcopal Church, where he is a member and serves on the financial committee, was another priority, he said, while he also spent years on the Victoria Symphony board.
Penni Gietz has served on the board for years and called Bothe the group's "idea man." She credited him for dreaming up the annual wine dinner, which has become the organization's main fundraiser.
"He was a great board member, and he's still very supportive," she said. "I hope to see a lot more of his ideas put into action here in Victoria."
The lifelong numbers guy no longer makes his way to the bank every day - he retired Dec. 31 but remained on as the IBC's regional board chairman - but he's found new ways to keep busy.
He joined on with RE/MAX Land & Homes in January, where he is pursuing a new career in commercial real estate. It might be a change, he said, but that's OK. In the banking world, he grew used to change.
Real estate was a natural fit for the man, said Veronica McCants, broker and co-owner of RE/MAX Land & Homes.
"He knows everything you need to know about financing and has connections all around South Texas," she said. "And that's what it's about - who you know and the connections you have."
She described her newest agent as a humble man with a technological edge. Bothe's ever-present iPad, she said, means he can work anywhere.
"He's a great businessman, a real people person and already has some commercial clients he's now working with," McCants said. "We're excited to have him."
Looking ahead, Bothe said he plans to use retirement to get involved in area groups and to continue learning real estate.
He also plans to stay on with IBC's board and remain part of the industry he's loved for so long.
All in all, he said, it's been a good run so far - even if he hasn't completed all of his goals.
"I said I wanted to become president of a bank, I wanted to own a men's clothing store, and I wanted to own a radio station," he said, chuckling. "Well, I didn't do those two things."