The SWBC Story
The Early Years
SWBC’s President, Gary Dudley, and Chairman, Charlie Amato, met in elementary school in the small East Texas town of La Porte. Family moves caused them to lose touch with each other, but the two reconnected when they pledged the same fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, at Sam Houston State University in the mid-60s.
After college, Charlie started a career in banking at Bay City Bank and Trust (then Harlingen National Bank). Gary was hired as a coach for the Houston school district and worked there for nine months before he was drafted into the armed forces. He spent six months active duty with the US Marines (and six years as a reservist) before returning to coaching for another year. Ultimately a credit union contact led him to a Michigan-based corporation, where he took a job as a Regional Sales Representative, selling insurance products to banks and credit unions in the Houston area.
In 1974, Charlie and Gary met again at a party in Houston, where Gary recruited Charlie to join the company he was working for, and he was hired to sell credit life insurance in the San Antonio area. Both Charlie and Gary were successful at their jobs, and both became high-performers. During that time, the company was losing money. It was poorly managed, with corporate decisions being based on the owners’ needs, rather than the needs of their clients. Charlie and Gary felt strongly that the service standards were not what their customers deserved. That is when Charlie and Gary decided to venture out on their own.
The Beginning of SWBC
On April 1, 1976, Charlie and Gary formed SWBC with $1,500 of starting capital. They brought with them 76 of the 77 financial institution clients they had worked with at their former employer, and being men of integrity, they paid the company for that book of business.
SWBC began by catering to the needs of lending institutions, including credit unions and banks, providing solutions to help financial institutions avoid losses, mitigate risks, and strengthen their loan portfolios. To gain a competitive advantage, they focused on managing relationships with financial institutions and insurance companies, including the management of overhead and staff. Their strong client relationships and their focus on quality service allowed SWBC to grow at an incredible pace. The biggest challenges Charlie and Gary faced were managing the growth, hiring the right people, and making sure they had enough money to fund future growth.
As the company began to realize success in the markets and industries it served, Gary and Charlie recognized opportunities to expand their business.
Today, SWBC is an international financial services company providing a wide range of insurance, mortgage, and investment services to businesses, families, and financial institutions. With offices across the country, the company employs 2,800 people nationwide. And, throughout the company’s history, there has always been a focus on providing outstanding customer service and running the business with integrity. Both Charlie and Gary admit that even though SWBC is a privately held company, they run it like it is publicly traded.