Inside the Heart and Mind of Key Coker
By Claudio Vega
Key Coker has an impressive resume as the CEO of BBVA for over 7 years and 38 years in the banking business. But his most impressive feat may be how he holds the attention of the children he teaches about financial literacy. Coker is a graduate of the University of Texas and takes immense pride in being able to deliver financial literacy to the community. Coker’s own business interests dated back to his time at UT. He knew at that point banking would be at the forefront of his interest in life. He also knew that he could effectively give back to his community by sharing his knowledge of financial literacy with the community by always leading with his “servient heart” as he likes to describe it. Coker teaches financial literacy at the local schools in the Dallas area, beginning with children at the kindergarten level and also at the local food bank. This is one of many ways he and his teammates at BBVA Compass give back to the communities they serve.
Coker became a bit introspective when talking about the importance of values he wished to instill upon his children. He and his wife, Katherine, and their two teenagers, ages 12 and 14, always have a formal sit-down dinner, beginning their meal with a prayer. It is at this time when they all are able to enjoy each other’s company, without any gadgets or interruptions. Key is quick to point out the value of spending time with each other during their nightly dinners. Key also communicated that his “do the right thing rule” is something he has taught to his children. He taught the children the need to hold up four fingers as a reminder before acting on impulse. The do the right thing rule could symbolically serve as a moral compass when contemplating decisions.
At home, work, or in the community, Coker believes in being an integral part of people’s lives and living by his values personally and professionally. Coker embodies professionalism and compassion, and his face lit up with pride when communicating about his clients, regardless of size.
Key believes in the value of communication, reading body language, and mentorship. His eyes lit up when telling a story of a “character loan” that was given to a client who had come to him many years earlier looking for a $10,000 loan. Character loans are given to those who may not have the assets to cover the loan but reflect strong moral fortitude to justify receiving the loan. This client of his was seeking the loan to begin a mechanical engineering firm. Key gave the loan to his client, and the client built his company, eventually selling it for $22 million ten years later. This is a beautiful indicator of the effect Key Coker has on people’s lives.
Key fondly speaks of his father, who had studied music at Juilliard and worked as a professional musician. “Beautiful music warms his heart,” he describes. The sentiment is evident as the warmth in his voice permeated the room with pride as he spoke of love for music. In spite of not being able to read music, he exposed the beauty of music to his children, who each play musical instruments. He also spoke graciously of taking his wife to a concert with his parents on their first date to see a brilliant Argentine trumpeter. Katherine was amused and thought that a guy who brings his parents on their first date can’t be all that bad.
Coker also described how being happy is one of the most important things in life: a value that he has strongly instilled upon his children. “It is better that they have peace in their lives rather than money.” This is the legacy that Coker believes in and lives every day.
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Key Coker is CEO of BBVA Compass of Dallas, has worked with BBVA for more than 12 years, and has a total of 35 years of banking experience. He is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin and serves on boards for the Better Business Bureau Dallas and the Dallas Regional Chamber. Coker formerly served as Dallas City President.