BROWNSVILLE — Al Villarreal, who will officially succeed Fred Rusteberg as president and CEO of IBC Bank-Brownsville at the end of August, said he’s been preparing for the opportunity since Rusteberg first hired him 23 years ago.
“I’ve had a great mentor in Mr. Rusteberg , a fantastic mentor,” said Villarreal, who has been in banking since 1988 and currently serves IBC Brownsville as senior executive vice president.
Rusteberg , who launched the Brownsville branch as CEO in 1984, has set high standards for his team to follow, Villarreal said, adding that as the top executive he’ll “continue to serve the community and to carry on the legacy that he’s left.”
“There is a saying that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Villarreal said. “Fred grew this bank from zero to a billion dollars over 30 years. In continuing that, I would love to grow the bank to $2 billion with the help of the team that he’s assembled, and most important, to continue to serve the local community and to grow with the local community.”
The Rio Grande Valley native said IBC is a community bank in the true sense of the word in that it lends mostly to local business people and small businesses. Villarreal said his job as chief executive will be to make sure his team is continually improving all lines of business, whether it’s serving retail, commercial or international customers.
“We are nothing without our customers,” he said. “Primarily what a bank president does is to make sure we are taking care of our customers.”
Villarreal said Rusteberg has always been active in the community and always encouraged his employees to follow suit.
“One of the best things about working for IBC is they offer you that opportunity to get involved,” Villarreal said. “In my opinion, you don’t replace a Fred Rusteberg in the community. You just hope to work very hard and live up to the standards that he set and live up to the contributions that he’s made.”
Villarreal said he’s received many calls of support from IBC customers and members of the community and that he’s grateful and “a little bit overwhelmed.” He wished Rusteberg a happy retirement.
“He deserves that and much, much more,” Villarreal said.
Although his last day is officially in August, Rusteberg said he’ll be part time after February.
The former Army office and helicopter pilot reflected on retirement.
“It feels good from the standpoint that I helped a lot of people accomplish a lot of things, both employees as well as customers,” he said. “You always feel like you could do more. We had a great team that played a big part in it.”
Rusteberg said that team is well prepared to carry on without him, adding, “They’ll do fine.”
Explaining his interest in community involvement, he said, “I was raised with a strong community ethic, that we should always try to give back. And I owe the community a great deal. I’m from here. I was born here. I went to public school here, and I’ve got a lot of great friends here.
“I guess I have tried to help the entire community — and when I say ‘community’ I mean the Rio Grande Valley — to be the best it can be and regionalize,” he said.
Rusteberg , a self-described “low-key guy,” said he plans to spend more time with family “among other things” now that he’s retiring. The man who witnessed profound economic growth during 30-plus years at the IBC helm predicted more of the same for Brownsville and the Valley over the next three decades.
“I’m just glad to have played a small part in helping other people,” he said. “We do the best we can. We’re only here for a little while.”