How American National Bank of Texas Is Chasing Opportunity by Pursuing Hispanic-Owned Businesses

By Holden Wilen – Staff Writer, Dallas Business Journal 

American National Bank of Texas has almost doubled its assets over the last five years. The Terrell-based bank is now looking to underserved communities in North Texas to help continue the growth.

Leading the charge for American National is Marcelo Mills, who recently came on board as president of Emerging Markets, a new position for the bank. In the role, Mills will oversee the bank’s efforts to increase and support business relationships in majority-minority communities across Dallas-Fort Worth, starting with a focus on southern Dallas County.

Mills said he sees a huge opportunity for the bank to succeed. He cited a Stanford University study last year that estimated more than 9,200 Hispanic-owned businesses in the Dallas metro area. He also noted that Dallas County has 128 majority-minority census tracts, many of which have primarily Hispanic populations.

"When you go into some of these majority-minority census tracts in places like South Dallas or Irving, you don't see as many banks as you see in downtown or North Dallas,” Mills said. “It's a little bit of a conundrum. Why aren't there banks? There are businesses on every corner, just like everywhere else. So, we see that as an opportunity. ... We're focused more on really extending the services that we have that have helped our existing base become successful to other customers that may not have as easy access.”

ANBTX currently has more than $5.4 billion in assets as of March 31, according to a federal regulatory filing. The bank also has almost $4.5 billion in deposits. If it can attract a percentage of the 9,200 Hispanic-owned businesses as clients, Mills said the bank would have an advantage in a competitive market like Dallas.

Mills’ immediate priority revolves around hiring. He currently operates as “an army of one,” but has a couple of community engagement officers from other departments at the bank joining him soon. He said right now he is looking to hire one banker focused on small businesses, another focused on small-to-midsized businesses and a third “more experienced commercial lender” to handle more complex transactions.

“We'll get the ball rolling with them first, and then we'll grow the team as needed,” Mills said. “You know, with 9,200 employers out there, I think we're going to focus on kind of getting one at a time in the beginning and grow from there and just make sure that our product offering and accessibility are all sufficient to serve them the best way we can.”

While the emerging markets team will initially concentrate on Dallas County, Mills said ANBTX plans to have the team replicate its efforts across the rest of the bank’s footprint, with Tarrant County likely coming next.
For Mills, the opportunity to join ANBTX came at the right time in his career. A native Texan who grew up in Haslet, Mills has spent the majority of his career working for banks in Southern California.

Before joining ANBTX, Mills co-founded Integro Bank, a de novo bank in Phoenix that launched last summer. After the bank launched, Mills had to decide whether to move to Phoenix or return home to Texas. Either way, he knew he wanted to leave California's high cost of living.

He got to know ANBTX almost out of pure chance. He and CEO Robert Hulsey had begun communicating last year when one of them accidentally emailed the other. They began having conversations and met for coffee in December in Dallas.

Mills said he became enamored by the bank’s story and how it started in 1875 to serve Terrell when the community didn’t have a bank. More recently, Mills said he became intrigued by the success of ANBTX’s “Ignite” mortgage program, which focuses on making homeownership accessible to people on affordable terms.
During their conversations, Mills said Hulsey told him the bank wants to replicate the success of its Ignite program with businesses.

Mills said the emerging markets role builds off his previous experience starting up Integro Bank because he’s essentially building a bank within a bank at ANBTX.

“They built this role for me to come in,” Mills said. “It was one of those situations where we said, "Here’s what we want to accomplish. We don't know exactly what the roadmap looks like, but here's your laptop, your office and let us know what you need.' It was definitely a situation for somebody that has a builder's mentality. It's an entrepreneurial situation.”

The emerging markets role also has a personal touch for Mills. His own family came to the U.S. from Mexico. He said his grandfather got a job as a riveter at LTV in Grand Prairie and eventually became the plant manager. He hopes to use his story to connect with potential clients in the Hispanic community who have never been with a bank before or had bad experiences.

“He retired in a three-piece suit with a diamond on his lapel,” Mills said of his grandfather. “That, to me, is the American dream. I think somebody in this community that shares that story just comes with a lot of local trust and knowledge, and I hope to use that to benefit others.”