The Independent Bankers Association of Texas (IBAT) recently honored two trailblazers in Texas community banking with the organization’s 2021 Excellence in Leadership Award. Hazem Ahmed, Houston area president at Independent Financial, and Julie Courtney, CAE, CMP, president of IBAT Services Inc. in Austin, were presented this prestigious award during the association’s Connecting Leaders Conference held June 17–19 in Grapevine.
To be considered for the Excellence in Leadership Award, one must selflessly promote, support and serve independent bankers in Texas. In addition, the recipient must be a member of the IBAT Leadership Division, demonstrating a personal commitment to, and financial support of, the 450-member group, which was founded in 1985 and is dedicated to the development of tomorrow’s leaders in community banking. While Courtney technically is not a member of the Leadership Division, she was the group’s IBAT staff liaison from 2011 to 2020 while also serving as president of the IBAT Education Foundation.
A Houston native with more than 20 years of experience in banking, Ahmed is a graduate of the University of Houston and Southwestern Graduate School of Banking (SWGSB) at Southern Methodist University. He also serves on the SWGSB Alumni Board, is a board member and past chairman of Crime Stoppers of Houston and volunteers with Junior Achievement. Ahmed sits on the IBAT executive committee, serving as chairman of the IBAT Education Foundation, and previously served as chairman of the IBAT Leadership Division.
“Hazem, more than anyone I have ever known, calls us all to a higher standard of leadership and personal excellence,” says Peter Smith, immediate past chairman of the IBAT Leadership Division and presenter of the awards to Hazem and Courtney. “The Leadership Division is proud to present him with this year’s Excellence in Leadership Award. He leads by example and with integrity, and he is very deserving of this recognition.”
With 25 years of experience in community banking, Courtney has served at IBAT for the past 22 years. Starting as an accounting assistant, she worked in several departments before her current role leading IBAT Services Inc., the association’s for-profit company. In that position, she is responsible for more than 20 endorsements of products and services for the community banking industry. In her prior role as president of the IBAT Education Foundation, Courtney was responsible for the planning and implementation of more than 50 live meetings, two of IBAT’s signature conferences, two banking schools and more than 150 webcasts each year. Courtney has served as president of the Hill Country chapter of Meeting Professionals International and on the executive committee of the Texas Society of Association Executives.
“I could list Julie’s professional credentials [or her] impact beyond IBAT, but for some reason those accolades just don’t compare to the most important thing about this person—it’s the way she makes you feel that matters the most,” Smith told the audience at the IBAT Connecting Leaders Conference in Grapevine. “With her smile, encouragement and caring heart, Julie has impacted countless individuals, making them feel like they want to be closer to IBAT and the IBAT Leadership Division. She possesses a quality that makes her amazing at what she does. It’s something that could never be taught. She loves community banking and community bankers, she loves IBAT and she loves her job. Sometimes, I think she believes in us more than we believe in ourselves! That’s why we would follow her anywhere. Julie brings out the best in others—and that is what true leadership is all about.”
Formed in 1974, IBAT represents Texas community banks. The Austin-based group is the largest state community banking organization in the nation, with membership comprised of more than 4,600 banks and branches in 700 Texas communities. Providing safe and responsible financial services to all Texans, IBAT member bank assets range in size from $26 million to $44 billion with combined assets statewide of nearly $193 billion. IBAT member banks are committed to supporting and investing in their local communities.