Q&A: Kristi Marcum

Kristi Marcum

Kristi Marcum didn’t have a beeline path to banking.

Marcum, the El Paso market president of Bank of America, one of the largest financial institutions in the country, was a middle school teacher for several years before getting an opportunity in banking.

But she’s still using the skills she picked up teaching to help educate her clients about finance.

Marcum has been in the banking industry for about 20 years. She began her banking career when her dad, Ron Marcum, offered her a position at Merrill Lynch to help with technology and switching computer systems.

“He had also had someone recently retire from the office, and that individual didn’t have a succession plan,” Marcum said. “His clients were distributed to other advisors in the office, and my dad said he didn’t want that to happen because his clients were family.”

Marcum graduated from Coronado High School and from UTEP with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and master’s in education.

When she’s not working, Marcum said she enjoys attending baseball games, sunset-watching and spending time in Downtown El Paso.

“There’s so much to do here. I think the desert holds its own beauty,”she said.

Marcum spent some time with El Paso Inc. last month at the Bank of America financial center in Downtown El Paso. She talked about the bank’s big minimum wage bump, women’s empowerment in the borderland and the city’s banking landscape.

Q: What’s new with Bank of America in El Paso?

Oh man. We’re excited that our minimum wage is going up to $20 for all employees. We just hit a goal of hiring 10,000 veterans. The goal was over a five-year time frame and we hit it before time ran out, so we renewed it and are dedicated to hiring another 10,000.

Q: What led to Bank of America’s decision to bump the company’s minimum wage up to $20 per hour?

It’s part of our commitment to our employees. If you look at what the current federal minimum wage is, $7.25, you can’t live on that. You’d have to have literally three jobs in order to make ends meet. To say we’re an employer that’s dedicated to our employees is a big deal for us. 

Q: How do these efforts affect Bank of America as an employer in El Paso, a place where we’re behind on wage growth? 

It makes us a really attractive employer in El Paso. We have about a third of our financial centers nationwide in low- to moderate-income areas. We know we have that in El Paso. To be able to be an employer that pays a higher wage is a really big deal for us. 

Q: What’s the banking landscape in El Paso looking like? Where have there been changes?

From our perspective, there are major banks we have in town. Us, Wells Fargo, Chase. There are regional banks like WestStar, which is huge here. The credit unions are really big here. But everyone has different things they can offer.

We have so many different platforms – big business lending, global commercial banking. Our goal is to be the ultimate financial resource for all our clients. 

We have kind of a leg up because we have eight lines of business and can offer things across the board to any and all clients. We have the advantage of being one of the largest banks in the world, but also being a local bank with local representation.

Q: What’s the interest levels for careers in banking?  

It’s interesting. Finance tends to be more male-dominated, depending on how you get into it. From our standpoint, through the bank, we start out with more female employees. We’re 51% female employees and 82% Hispanic here, so we reflect the community and it’s really important to us.

We’ve had so many employees who are still with us who are 10, 12 years or more in the industry but started out as tellers and have moved their way up to a relationship banker, or a small business consultant. The job opportunities within the bank are wonderful, and we try to hire from within before we go external. It leads to more retention and job satisfaction.

Q: What do you see in terms of financial health and literacy in El Paso? Are we there yet?

No. We’re nowhere near, unfortunately, and this is nationwide. People don’t save the way they used to. 

Millennials are actually better at saving than Gen X is. Looking at what it costs to retire, you have something in your brain where you say you’re going to retire at 65 or 66. You decide that this is what you need to get there, but you actually have to put money into a savings vehicle or retirement vehicle and have it do something for you in order to make it to retirement. 

As far as financial literacy, no. This is something we really should be teaching in schools. We should be talking about saving and investing and how to do your own taxes. Some parents teach their kids those things but most don’t. I think financial literacy has a long way to go.

Q: Do you still use your teaching experience in your current position?

Every day. That was one of the things that was a really tough decision for me to make, because I love teaching. When I went into it, I thought OK, if I can teach middle school I can do pretty much anything. I told my dad I’d give it a year and see how it goes. Here we are, 20 years later. 

The research of teaching, I do research every day. I educate my clients every day, and I feel like we educate the community pretty much every day. 

Q: You’re very active in promoting women’s empowerment in El Paso. What are your roles and what do you hope to accomplish? 

I was a member of Junior League for about 13 years. I’ve been involved with the YWCA since 2005. There’s nothing that a man can do that a woman can’t do.

I think a lot of that is just, women need to know that there are other women out there supporting them. That helps build your confidence in certain situations.

Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at sesanchez@elpasoinc.com or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.


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