It’s late 1892 and livestock far outnumber the 600 or so humans in the new Texas Panhandle town of Amarillo. Imagine riding your horse into town to do your weekly errands, including a stop to check out the new bank, Amarillo National Bank (ANB). Tie up out front and mosey into the bank at the corner of 4th & Polk. The future is precarious out on this edge of civilization but thanks to that first meeting with B.T. Ware, one of the bank’s original officers, you count on the bank in the coming years.
Over those years, ANB exhibits many traits associated with being Texan, things like reliability, stability, loyalty, independence, dedication and fairness. Based on those traits, and thanks to the efforts of numerous employees, the bank accumulates a lot of distinctions.
Among them are:
ANB does not close during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in the 1930s.
ANB opens the first drive-up bank in the state in 1950.
ANB connects ATMs to mainframe computers in 1978.
ANB is the first Amarillo-based bank to offer online banking in 1997.
ANB donates millions of dollars and countless volunteer hours to community groups.
ANB continues to grow, reaching more than $8 billion in assets at the end of September 2022, continuing the bank’s status as the largest family-owned bank in the nation.
Which brings us to 2023. I walk into Amarillo National Bank’s downtown headquarters (catty- cornered from 4th & Polk) and deposit a check (yes, I am an ANB customer). Then I ride the elevator up to the third floor to meet Richard Ware (chairman and B.T.’s great grandson) and William and Patrick Ware (president and vice chairman and B.T.’s great, great, grandsons). Yes, it’s the same family: five generations over 130 years and counting.
“We aren’t claiming to be the most intelligent bankers but we may be the most fortunate,” Richard says, explaining the family’s staying power. We have a unique corporate legacy that is spreading across Texas, they explain. ANB opened a San Antonio branch in December 2022 and has branches in Austin, Bryan/College Station, Fort Worth and Lubbock. But all three agree the bank’s bread and butter is Amarillo.
“We started helping the cattle and oil industries and it always comes back to cattle and oil,” Patrick concludes.
The father/son management team is not big on bragging but the family has attracted the attention of Texas Monthly (1999) and American Banker (2017). The Wares, like their ancestors, are quick to deflect attention to more than 900 current bank employees.
“They are our customer service champions. We like to have fun and encourage our employees to enjoy their time working at the bank,” William says.
The Wares put customer service first because it is important to “stick with our customers through thick and thin,” William explains. For example, call the main number (806-378-8000) during business hours and you always talk with a person: no phone tree with a “we value your business” message.
What’s the future? How about female family leadership? The Wares’ sixth generation includes several of B.T.’s great, great, great granddaughters.
“We are the right bank in the right place at the right time,” Patrick says while his dad and brother nod in agreement. “We may not have the same history and the same success if we tried this somewhere else.”
“We plan on being here another 130 years,” William adds.