Standing in the teller line with her mother, Faviola Alba was captivated by the services provided and discovered her calling.
On a regular basis, she and her mother would go to the bank to convert American dollars to pesos, which was money that her father sent home from his immigrant work in California. She became so familiar with the process that her mother would often entrust her to go to the bank by herself and return with the money that would feed the family of nine remaining
“The teller and general manager were always helpful and even though I was young, I knew it was important work because we needed that money for the household,” she said. “When I was 10 or 11, I told my mother that that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up.”
Faviola and her family would eventually join her father in California and then settle in Arkansas, speaking very little English, she understands firsthand how intimidating banking and living in general can be in America when English isn’t a person’s first language. That’s why when she was first hired as a part-time teller at a bank, she made herself available to translate for Spanish speaking customers.
While translating various transactions, she also set herself up for promotion by learning new skills along the way. Eventually, when the Mexican Consulate opened in the same plaza as her bank branch, she began volunteering to help other immigrants with financial literacy.
“When people are uninformed, they’re vulnerable,” she said. “Hispanic men have been robbed and sometimes killed because they were and still are seen as ‘walking ATMs’ because when they are unbanked, they cash checks and keep their cash with them. Sometimes they wouldn’t even make it home with that money their family needed.
“I knew that financial education was the cure for being uninformed, so I wanted to make sure I was sharing what I knew. When they meet someone like me, who speaks their language, there’s an automatic connection and trust,” she said. “It’s my way of paying it forward because so many people helped us when we were new immigrants and so many people helped me along my career path to where I
Today, she is senior vice president and community lending manager at Arvest. She regularly teaches at the Mexican Consulate in Little Rock and has worked with the consuls that have led the agency since it opened in 2007.
Another passion for Faviola is her work with El Zócalo Immigrant Resource Center that helps connect immigrants to a wide array of social services. In addition to helping customers, she helps other associates as well. Through HOLArvest, the Hispanic and Latino employee impact group, she serves as a mentor for her peers, helping them reach their career goals.
Having worked in banking for 20 years now, Faviola said she is touched when she encounters customers who share their success stories.
“It’s so rewarding when someone tells you that you’ve made a difference in their lives,” she said. “I’ve run into customers who opened their first account with me 20 years ago and they say ‘You’re still my banker’ or a customer who proudly shows off her car because we worked together to build her credit so she could qualify for a loan. Hearing their stories gives me joy; I’m not sure there is a better feeling.”