Silvia Alvarez, CPA, CGMA was always drawn to numbers. With a background in psychology and a career in banking already in motion, Silvia took a leap and pursued her accounting degree, and later, the CPA designation. Always one to start the day with a good attitude, it's easy to see why young commercial lenders gravitate towards her for knowledge and mentorship. We recently had the chance to speak to Silvia about her role as Executive Vice President, Commercial Banking Manager at First National Rio Grande, and learned about why she's proud to be a CPA in the banking world.
Silvia Alvarez, CPA, CGMA
I’m a CPA because…
I really enjoyed accounting and always liked working with numbers, so even though I was a banker, I decided to go back to school and take the CPA exam. Being in the banking environment, I thought that the CPA designation would be helpful.
What have you enjoyed most about working in the profession?
Because of my accounting background, I teach other young commercial lenders how to read financial statements and understand them. I also enjoy the opportunity to tackle the more complex transactions that require more in their structure.
If I weren’t a CPA, I’d like to be a ______________________. (Fill in the blank)
I would probably work with children and families. In my prior life, I worked with children with special needs. I have a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and my Masters in speech pathology/therapy.
Describe your “typical” day
As a commercial banking manager, I am responsible for the successful performance of four commercial bankers, a credit analyst manager, and three loan associates. Daily, I interact with employees seeking my advice, answer any questions the bankers may have and review the work of the employees who report to me. I am a member of the bank’s Executive Loan Committee and as such, I am also actively involved in the approval of commercial loan requests. In addition, I manage a portfolio of commercial loans and have responsibility for generating new commercial banking relationships for the bank.
How did you decide to go into private industry?
When I was at Wells Fargo, I went back to school to take additional accounting classes and even though my major responsibility at the bank was centered on the credit side, I worked closely with the bank president and finance director preparing the budget for the commercial banking line of business and analyzing variances. I had the opportunity to work for Meyner’s & Company for nine months in the business valuation and litigation support group and this allowed me to solidify my accounting knowledge and skills.
What keeps you up at night?
Family keeps me up at night. Also, if I have a major deadline with a large loan request, this keeps me up because I want to get back to my clients and give them an answer very quickly. I am passionate about…In my professional environment, I am passionate about customer service. Personally, I am passionate about spending time with my family.
I never leave home without…
A good attitude! I start the day by working hard and being productive.
What is the professional accomplishment you are most proud of?
I think I have been able to accomplish a lot in the banking world and I am very proud of having my CPA license and being able to use that knowledge to help the younger generation to succeed and develop into good bankers.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
To work hard without expecting that you are going to be promoted immediately and make a lot of money; if you work hard and do the right thing, promotions and adequate compensation will follow.
People don’t know this but…What is something (personal or funny) that people would be surprised to find out about you?
I used to work with special needs children, and also, hardly anyone would imagine that I was born in Topeka, KS. My dad was in the air force, so I jokingly say I was an “accident” because my parents were not looking to expand their family at that time. I am the third out of five children and was raised in San Juan, PR, where my family is from.
I like to work out and spend time with my family.
What advice would you give someone starting out about choosing a career path?
My advice would be to start in public accounting because it gives you a stronger foundation if you choose to go into private industry later on. In my opinion, public accounting really provides the venue to figure out which sector you want to be in, public accounting vs private industry, and provides exposure to different private industries.