Amplify Stories is an ongoing series that highlights some of the fantastic people behind the scenes at Amplify Credit Union.
This month we’re showcasing Shirley Sheffield, a commercial lending officer and VP at Amplify Credit Union since 2014. Shirley’s career in commercial lending spans over two decades. She is an accomplished generalist, having handled a huge variety of commercial loans, including SBA micro-lending, oil and gas, ocean-going vessels, traditional commercial real estate, and more. With experience ranging from managing her own business to serving as vice president, Shirley’s resourcefulness is central to her career success. Wielding her understanding of Texas urban markets, her extensive knowledge of the central Texas region, and her analytical problem-solving skills, she is a formidable commercial lending officer. We spoke with Shirley about her career and her experience with Amplify.
Why did you choose your profession?
I was very enamored with the opportunity to work for what would be the largest independent bank in Texas. It was my first job in a bank; I was promised a loan desk early into my career and provided with top-quality credit training for the industry.
Describe to me what your career journey has looked like so far.
I started with the bank I described above—the largest independent bank in Texas, which unfortunately failed. I witnessed the failure first-hand, the counting of cash in every room of a bank and the lines for several blocks as people withdrew their funds. I experienced the very real loss of this bank to the community. I also learned first-hand the value of solid group decision-making. I have never desired nor needed high lending authority. Instead, I value having a group of people to collaborate with on loan structure.
Shortly after that bank’s failure, we returned to the Austin area. I worked for the largest bank in Austin (at the time), Interfirst Bank. I was in the Commercial Real Estate Lending group. As the turmoil in the 80’s got worse, I left banking to have another child and raise my family.
While raising my children, I had the blessing to be a founding member and on the executive committee for three PTAs. I had the joy of serving as a Girl Scout Troop leader, a Girl Scout Day Camp Director, a Girl Scout Service Unit Director, and was also on the Board for the local Girl Scout Council. I ran for School Board and served as School Trustee and School Board President. There is no experience quite like walking door-to-door and asking for votes! I am proud to say I had no agenda except to improve the management and decision-making processes for our School District and improving the educational opportunities and results for the children of the district. I used all of my skills from my management degree to my banking experience to improve the schools.
We later moved to the Waco area where I worked first for an SBA micro-lender and then later for a community bank. My spouse was President of a bank in Waco, even though we generally have avoided working in the exact same market. I worked in Mexia and had the joy of making loans for oil & gas again. I was afraid that the position would be slower, being in a small town, but it was anything but! Upon our return to Austin, I took a job at a Detroit-based regional bank while my husband managed an Austin-area community bank.
As the downturn in the economy occurred, I departed the bank for an Austin-area non-profit and then on to insurance. The fun of working in insurance was meeting so many people from all walks of life and delving deeply into the sales process. There were things I didn’t like about it, the primary one being the walls that went up simply at the mention of the word “insurance”. Coming from banking, I was not used to walls—I was used to the trust that this field blesses you with. During this time period, I experienced the loss of my home, and my sister’s home, and my father’s home in the Bastrop Complex fires. On top of this loss was the loss of my work pipeline.
When I was offered a position back in banking, I leapt for it. This position was in Lockhart, an area that I had little knowledge of, but I enjoyed my time there.
I then took the position with Amplify, primarily because it returned me back to the market I grew up in, knew best, and where I brought the most value. I also was able to bring my generalist background to the credit union to structure nearly every sort of loan we saw.
What made you choose Amplify Credit Union?
I believe in the value of helping small businesses. I like working for an institution that values the community it lends to, recognizing that one of the greatest values we can provide our community is strong financing opportunities.
I believe in the value of helping small businesses.”
I also had a great rapport with the manager who brought me on board, and genuinely felt needed.
What do you love most about what you do?
Guiding a borrower through the process. I love seeing a deal taken from the site plan and architectural drawings, built and then open for business. There is nothing like the sense of satisfaction I gain from being a part of the entire process.
Having such a long-spanning career, I’ve had a few borrowers reach out and thank me years after making their loan–not just for structuring their loan, but because that loan turned out to save their business. That’s really meaningful to me.
Tell us about a professional success here at Amplify that you’re proud of.
Being a profitable employee for the credit union and providing our members with the opportunity to grow their businesses.
What do you think is the key for success in a role like yours?
To be a great commercial loan officer, you need a strong credit background, open-mindedness, the ability to talk to anyone, and the ability to genuinely value the blessings all people from all paths of life bring to you.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Concentrate on your strengths, you don’t want to spend a lot of time developing your weaknesses!
What are some of your big wins as a commercial lending team this year?
We were able to provide a lot of PPP loans during the pandemic. We had few failures in our portfolio–which is excellent considering everything that has happened this year. We’ve been able to maintain steady progression and growth. We really utilize the banking mindset, being methodical and cautious, yet open to new ideas and growth. We do a great job keeping the balance.
Is there a core value that your team is built around?
We are focused on long-term, healthy, profitable growth for the credit union.
What makes your commercial team especially strong?
The lenders, of course! All joking aside, every member of our team is strong. We’re all smart, experienced, and value our customers.
Why would someone choose Amplify rather than another lender?
The people! We all rent money, but it’s the people that really differentiate a loan.
Future-Focused and Growing
As we continue to grow as a financial institution, serving our members by providing loans for business growth remains an important aspect of our efforts. We’re staying focused on the future, constantly expanding the ways we serve our community.
We can’t wait to see what’s next for Amplify. Whether you’re a business partner, one of our members, or someone looking for a new credit union—we’re here for you!
July 28, 2023 update: Shirley has retired from Amplify. We wish her all the best on this next adventure!