For Barbra Wallace, clients are not thought of as a transaction or means to earning a paycheck for herself. Rather, they are a contributor to the greater good of the community.
“Strong, stable employers support families, not employees,” she says. “I strive to support them in this effort by helping them finance their businesses with a conservative amount of leverage and by making them aware of resources for improving or networking their businesses.”
It’s a mindset Wallace has cultivated over 27 years in banking. She’s spent the past 13 years as senior vice president of commercial lending at Central Bank of the Ozarks. Wallace started her banking career in 1991 with Bank of America, before moving to U.S. Bank in 2000 for five years.
She currently has a business-banking portfolio of $85 million among approximately 55 clients. That’s on par with her portfolio size in 2017 and up from $75 million in 2016.
Wallace recognizes each of her clients is different, with their own approaches and ideologies about success.
“When I understand this, we can work together for a common goal and achieve more,” she says. “I am rewarded by witnessing the success of my clients and the families they support.”
Noting bankers are sometimes known to be supportive only when the company’s doing well, Wallace says she’s an advocate for her clients and has a vested interest in their success. In her lengthy career, she’s seen her customers at their highs and lows. When clients are impacted by the lows, she works with them to develop a financial plan they can handle and allow them to retain working capital.
“I like to think my customers sleep better at night knowing they have a banking partner that genuinely cares for them and their heirs,” she says.
To aid her clients, Wallace says she’ll do things even when it doesn’t directly benefit her or the bank. For example, she introduced a client seeking to expand into a new market to affiliate bankers, so they could assist in building a referral network.
Within her industry, she’s also involved in the Springfield Finance and Development Corp. and Rural Missouri Inc. – organizations that both seek to aid entrepreneurs with financing needs.
Financial assistance is also a key component of her community involvement. She completed a six-year term this year on the Council of Churches of the Ozarks’ board, where she helped evaluate the outreach’s ongoing viability and identifying tax credits it was able to secure.
She’s also currently pursuing a tax credit program with the hopes of assisting clients served through the Northwest Project, a Springfield initiative designed to help people living in poverty. Under the program, participant savings can be matched up to a 3-1 ratio.
“The credit, known as the Family Development Account, encourages those below 200% of the poverty level to save for a specific purpose,” she says, such as home improvements or education for a household member. “This would be amazing.”
On track to be open for the 2024-25 school year, an Ozark High School activities center is under construction near Tiger Stadium.