Adapting to technology that changes at a breakneck pace requires constant innovation. When SWBC was founded in 1976, owners Charlie Amato and Gary Dudley used the most advanced communication technology available — electric typewriters — and spent a lot of time in that era’s version of a mobile office: phone booths.
Today, SWBC has more than 17 divisions and employs more than 3,000 professionals who deliver a wide range of insurance, mortgage and investment services to individuals, businesses and financial institutions all over the world. Those employees include almost 165 programmers and analysts utilizing technology that was unfathomable when the company began.
But for Amato and Dudley, the key to SWBC’s innovation is not just its investment in technology equipment or software, although there’s been plenty of that. It’s also the company’s hiring strategy, which ensures that SWBC can rapidly adapt while still keeping SWBC’s core values.
“We’ve grown dramatically over the years, but the most important thing to us is that even in the midst of rapid growth, we keep the values that got us here,” said Amato, SWBC chairman.
“We focus on hiring the right people — the brightest minds in the areas we need to deliver in,” said Dudley, SWBC president.
Many of those bright minds today are Millennials, and SWBC actively and strategically recruits them as new college grads.SWBC also recently created an internal program called "Emerging Professionals," which focuses on interaction between early career professionals within SWBC to increase brand and product awareness, enhance recruitment and internship efforts, and represent SWBC in community involvement events.
“Charlie and I are aware that hiring Millennials is very important for our business,” Dudley said. “This group of emerging professionals takes us to the next level. They are young and bright and full of great ideas and energy.”
Amato is a regent for the Texas State University System, and is also a past chairman. That means he is in touch with the deans at eight universities and has his ear to the ground for top candidates.
Both Amato and Dudley are also deeply involved with the College of Business at their alma mater, Sam Houston State University, and SWBC recruits star students all over the country through numerous job fairs, referrals from current employees and even at fraternity conventions.
When it comes to hiring experienced professionals, SWBC is just as proactive. Soon after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was formed, SWBC started hiring compliance officers across all of its divisions.
“We respect what the CFPB is trying to accomplish for consumers and we started out early on recruiting the very best compliance people we could in order to meet the new demands,” Dudley said.
Undergirding all of the company’s decisions is the founders’ commitment to a core value they articulated from the start: delivering a quality product for a fair price with exceptional service.
With that in mind, one thing that is unlikely to change is who controls SWBC.
“We are privately held, and we want to maintain that,” Amato said. “Our philosophy in delivering value is that we don’t have to live and die by the quarter. We want to maintain the integrity of the company and think long-term about how to be better tomorrow, and next year.”