Chairman of Chase Bank Dallas Region
She’s brilliant, she’s bold, and no one rocks a pair of cowboy boots like this superstar banker with a great sense of humor.
Whether she is wearing one of her sparkling vintage Western ensembles as she rides her horse in the grand entry at the Fort Worth Rodeo, working in downtown Dallas in a pink power Chanel suit, or out at an event in her Mi Golondrina, the native of Sherman, Texas always stands out.
As Yves Saint Laurent once famously said—"Fashions fade, style is eternal.” He could have been talking about the always exquisitely dressed Chairman of Dallas, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Elaine Agather. Whether she is wearing one of her sparkling vintage Western ensembles as she rides her horse in the grand entry at the Fort Worth Rodeo, working in downtown Dallas in a pink power Chanel suit, or out at an event around Dallas or Forth Worth in her Mi Golondrina (which she wears so well, often paired with one of her many colorful cowboy boots), the native of Sherman, Texas always stands out. But, there is much more to her than just her enviable wardrobe. She was a woman before her time, who started working at Chemical Bank in New York City in 1979. Ten mergers and 40 years later, she is a highly respected banker and philanthropist. We caught up with the powerhouse to get advice for young women starting their careers, to learn about her most memorable ensembles (Cruella De Vil in a full length red fur coat might just be it), and one of her favorite life mottos—“Get over it!”
You grew up in Sherman. What are your most fond memories of growing up there?
We knew everybody in town, and you felt safe to go anywhere. I was always running across the street to ride horses. I have three fabulous older sisters, who were 14, 11, and 8 when I was born. They would encourage me about things I should do—go to France for a summer in college, or to go to business school. It was great being the youngest. And then of course, there was being a cheerleader. There is nothing like Friday night football in small town Texas.
What were you like as a child?
I was always a leader, an extrovert, and confident. I think it was because of those older sisters who encouraged me and made me feel like I could anything I wanted. But, they also kept me grounded.
When or what helped you realize your passion for finance?
I loved watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show on television. She was one of the first women I ever saw as a working woman, who had a career and worked in a tall building. Plus, she dressed really cute, and she was funny. I watched her and thought, ‘I want to have a career like that.’ After she died, I read that she received hundreds of letters from women my age who were inspired by watching that show in the same way. I always wanted to explore and travel, and I was never afraid of going anywhere and meeting anybody. When I graduated from the University of Oklahoma, several family members encouraged me to go to business school, and that’s when I got interested in finance and business in general.
What about your love for horse back riding and rodeo?
Growing up, I rode and always loved horses. We couldn’t afford for me to show or anything. When I became the chairman of the bank in Fort Worth, I went to the rodeo for the first time in 1990. When I saw the grand entry, I thought, ‘If I could just ride in that one time in my life!’ I did it the next time (they probably just let me because I was head of the bank) and 28 years later, I am still doing it every year. The security guards at work always know when it is rodeo season because I come to work in my Westernwear.
What advice do you have for young women starting their careers?
My first job in banking was as an analyst in New York City. After my training, my boss called me in his office and said, ‘We want you to go to London for another training program.’ I said, ‘London…England? Ok, you bet.’ I learned how to say, “YES!” early on. That’s really important for young women to do.
How did you juggle your career and motherhood when your children were young?
I love my job, and I love my kids, and so I was happy. That for starters is really important. If you aren’t happy, it’s hard to have the energy to get it all done. I had a lot of energy, and I really empowered my nanny and other people who helped us. I try to do that at work too—make people who work for me feel in charge. As a working mom, you have to delegate certain things that aren’t critical, so you can save your energy and time for the important stuff. It’s important to empower people, to trust them, and give them leeway. People have given me that along the way.
It’s important to empower people, to trust them, and give them leeway.
Who has been the most influential woman in your life?
My mother and my sisters, but I have also had a lot of cool women mentors at the bank. Also, my daughters. They keep me current and aware, and they always have opinions about what I wear.
What’s a big moment in your personal life that helped define the woman you are today?
I think just being raised by my parents. They worked really hard. My dad didn’t finish 8thgrade. He operated a bulldozer. My mom didn’t graduate high school, but they were happy and so proud of us. My dad had a great sense of humor, and I have always tried to bring that to the bank. I love to work, and that had to have come from them.
What about in your career?
I was 34 when I moved to Fort Worth to become the head of the bank in 1990. That changed everything and gave me the opportunity to be a leader. It was a bad bank at the time, and it needed help, but I got to own it. When anyone becomes an owner in whatever they are doing, that is the moment you change. I treated the bank like it was mine. It wasn’t just a job anymore.
What is a favorite quotation of yours?
Get over it! I see it at the bank a lot—people hold on to things. You have to get over stuff and move on. I think so much time is wasted worrying about who did what. I also love, ‘Saddle your own horse.’ You have to learn how to make things happen for yourself.
You are a style icon! What are some of your most memorable ensembles?
I do have really great Western clothes. My husband has figured out how to find beautiful vintage Western like what Roy Rogers and Dale wore. Someone in Hollywood has made some pieces for me. I am sure I will give them all to the Cowgirl Museum when I go. I have dressed in costume a lot over the years to make people laugh and have fun. Cruella De Vil was everyone’s favorite. I kind of look like Glenn Close and with my red fur coat and black and white wig, I looked spot on. When the movie first came out and my girls were young, I dressed up as Cruella again, and all the girls came dressed as puppies for a birthday party. The other moviegoers thought I was a promotion for the movie.
What was the last great book you read?
Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Being with my two daughters and my son-in-law and husband, all together, anywhere. I think it would be even better if everything I ate had zero calories in it too.
Which talent would you most like to have?
Singing. I can’t really sing, but that doesn’t keep me from singing “Santa, Baby” at the bank every year.
What do you value most in friends?
Loyalty and humor. I am an easy laugh. I just love it when my friends make me laugh. It’s getting funnier as we all get older too.
How do you style your Mi Golondrina?
Growing up in Texas, we all saw and wore Mexican dresses, but Cristina Lynch has taken it to a whole new level. Her pieces are so good looking and interesting. It’s really impressive what she has built. And it really appeals to all ages, young and old. My daughters and I all love it. I love the way she celebrates Mexican culture and the artisans who make these gorgeous shirts, dresses, and skirts. I am so glad she brought these special pieces to us!