Across the Texas coastline, Hilltop employees banded together to help one another and their communities. Immediately following the hurricane making landfall, HilltopSecurities Senior Vice President and Financial Advisor Don Burrows with the firm’s League City office was in contact with the rest of his team—Vice Presidents and fellow Financial Advisors Clint Auttonberry and Mike Agol, along with Client Service Associate Pauline Smith and Business Development Associate Rolando Villarreal.
Once Don had verified their safety, he began calling friends, neighbors and clients—as did Clint and Mike—to make sure they were all right.
“Many of our long-term customer relationships fall into the category of friendships, and we were checking on all of our friends,” said Don.
One of Don’s customers was out of town and concerned about the status of her home. The client asked if Don would check on it for her, and Don was happy to acquiesce. It’s that same type of client-friend relationship that played a role in the rescue of Don’s daughter, a student at the University of Houston who was trapped in her apartment near campus due to the rising flood waters. One of Don’s clients who owns a large truck helped Don reach his daughter before the flooding became impassable.
The storm had knocked out power to much of the area, including the HilltopSecurities League City office, and the flood waters had landlocked many people in their respective homes and neighborhoods.
“We had high water, but thankfully it began to drain off fairly quickly in many places,” said Don.
As the water began to recede, Don, Clint, Mike, and Rolando rolled up their sleeves and started helping their Galveston-county neighbors and several clients with the extensive clean-up process.
“Pauline’s house had been severely flooded, but she said she had enough family members helping her, so Clint, Mike, Rolando, and I reached out to friends and clients to offer our services. Our office was closed, but we knew our sister branch in Austin, as well as the home office in Dallas, was busy taking care of our customers’ immediate financial needs, which enabled us to focus on helping our friends and customers on the ground with their demolition and tear-out needs.”
Both of HilltopSecurities’ Houston retail offices—the Riverway office in the West Houston/Galleria area and the League City office —were impacted by the storm, along with the firm’s public finance and capital markets office located downtown. Associates in the downtown office not only volunteered their time helping friends, family and neighbors, many also spent Labor Day doing demolition and cleanup work for one of their own whose home was damaged by the rising waters. While employees were helping support their neighbors, systems and processes had been put into place to route Houston customer calls and messages to the firm’s Austin and Dallas locations.
“Austin serves as the back-up office to both of the Houston Riverway and League City retail offices,” said HilltopSecuities Austin Assistant Branch Manager Suzanne Pittman. “We knew Houston was going to be impacted in a substantial way and we were ready to support them.”
According to Pittman, for those displaced clients needing immediate access to funds, the quick response and decision making of HilltopSecurities’ home office team — including John Muschalek, HilltopSecurities chief administrative officer, and Mike Cogliano, HilltopSecurities co-chief compliance officer — was inspiring.
“There was a camaraderie and urgency across so many of our departments as people worked past cut-off times, into the evenings and even over the weekend to help take care of our colleagues and provide customers the support they needed,” said Suzanne.
“They went over the top to help our clients in need,” said Don, “not to mention all of the personal calls and emails we received from our colleagues around the state, including the firm’s leadership team, to make sure we were okay and inquiring what more they could do to help us. At the previous large bank where we were affiliated before joining HilltopSecurities in 2012, we would have never received that level of support and assistance. It really made us feel like we were part of a big family here.”
HilltopSecurities associates and their families in Dallas also lent their support to the recovery effort. Vice chairman and head of structured finance, Michael Marz, donated his time at a local food pantry where his wife is a volunteer, while she and their daughter traveled to Beaumont as part of a seven-member team from Good Shepherd Episcopal School Disaster Relief. They served 600 meals, twice a day for three days, to feed Beaumont’s storm victims.