Abraham Baeza went from cooking to banking
Special to the Post Independent
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” When he talks about how he started banking, Abraham Baeza displays a confident smile.
“They offered me the job at the bank because I made very tasty food,” jokes Baeza, 32, who lives in Glenwood Springs and works as a Latino Services Officer for Alpine Bank.
“I’m a great chef,” he adds with a big grin.
Baeza arrived to Glenwood Springs from Queretaro, Mexico in 2003. Initially, he came to visit and help his cousin who, at the time, had a burrito restaurant called “El Pueblito de Victoria” next to Wal-Mart in Glenwood.
Baeza had planned to stay for just a month. But one day, the vice chairman of Alpine Bank, a regular client at his cousin’s restaurant, offered him a job at the bank. The idea was to create a new division to better serve the growing Hispanic community in the area.
“In the beginning I declined the offer because I had applied to go do a Masters in economics in Europe,” says Baeza, who has a degree in business administration from a university in Mexico. “In the end, I didn’t get in the school, and after some deliberations, I decided to accept the job at the bank.”
Today, at his job at Alpine Bank, Baeza has two main responsibilities: One is to establish a relationship with the Hispanic community through education and alliances; the other one is to deal with commercial loans.
“The bank developed this division due to the need of the Hispanics in Garfield County. I came to fill that niche,” says Baeza of the bank, which now counts about 2,000 Hispanic clients in the Western Slope of Colorado.
To Baeza, his biggest challenge as a banker so far has been to recognize the right services and products for the Hispanic community.
“I’m a bridge. When the bank clients see I speak Spanish, they come and tell me what they need,” says Baeza, the only official at the Glenwood Springs’ branch who speaks Spanish. “When it comes to finances and legal stuff, the language barrier is important. We want to become our clients’ partners.”
Baeza says he’s very happy with his job, probably because he’s always loved numbers.
“I love banking. Through this job you learn a lot about other industries,” he says.
In addition to savings and checking accounts at the bank, the Hispanics also have access to car loans, and even home loans. To get one, people don’t need to have a Social Security number, they can use an ITIN (Individual tax Identification Number), explains Baeza . When it comes to commercial loans, he says the majority of his commercial clients are in the construction business.
These days, the bank is working to offer the service of sending money to other countries, another request from the Hispanics, added Baeza.
“These small communities will keep growing and the diversity in them will grow as well,” says Baeza.
Baeza also likes to highlight the working ethics of the majority of the Hispanics living in the area.
“We work hard and we are trying to accommodate to the culture,” he says.
Baeza learned to ski when he was 10 years old and then visited Vail for many years. He says he still enjoys skiing and other winter sports and also likes to play golf.
When asked what he misses the most of Mexico, he says without hesitation: “The people and the food.”
“I miss the ‘real’ Mexican food,” he says. “There are many places here that are close to that ‘real,’ but it’s not the same.
“I miss how laid back relationships are there,” he adds. “Here, everything is set on the agenda, the time to eat and to meat people, including your friends. I miss showing up at my friends’ homes without planning it.”
But Baeza says if somebody lives in the United States, he has to accommodate to the organized lifestyle.
“And this is a good thing,” he adds, “because this is one of the reasons why businesses here are so successful.”
And, though he has become a fan of eating pasta since he moved to Colorado, Baeza says he stays faithful to the “vitamin T” diet: Tortas, tacos and tequila.
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