In 2006, Elaine Martin was working for the Elgin Bank of Texas when five Central Texas entrepreneurial partners approached her about writing a charter for a new bank. “I’ve worked with and around banks most of my life,” Martin recalls thinking. “How hard can it be?” Over the ensuing months, the answer to that question would become abundantly clear.
Not only was Martin tasked with developing the charter for Elgin-based Frontier Bank of Texas, but she was also part of the original team that raised $26 million to get the bank off the ground. As she announces her retirement this month—having served as the bank’s chief operating officer since its doors opened—she enjoys looking back at that first year with the founders of the Frontier Bank brand. “I had worked for the state as an accountant early in my career. That background along with my early years in banking gave me the confidence to tackle what was a pretty daunting challenge.”
Taking on difficult tasks became one of Martin’s trademarks during her career, and the list of beneficiaries goes far beyond Frontier Bank. Time and again, she has shared her wealth of experience and skills with other community banks who were in need, including consultation, evaluation and recommendations for bank operations. Marin is the definition of a servant leader.
“I have known a lot of good bankers in my life, but I am confident in saying that no one person has been more instrumental in the development of Frontier Bank than Elaine Martin,” says Kirk Watson, Frontier Bank chairman and Austin’s newly elected mayor (having previously served as Austin’s mayor from 1997 to 2001). “She performed critical tasks from day one and she is a big reason we are where we are as a bank today.”
Martin remembers with fondness the early days of the little bank in the portable building: “We were so proud. We had 11 employees who were the cream of the crop, a teller line and two drive-through lanes, but the building was so small the tellers had to sit on the floor to balance their cash drawers at the end of the day.” She adds with a laugh, “But to get to the floor, the tellers had to slide down with their back to the wall to sit.”
Thankfully, those days have passed. Today, Frontier Bank is recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in the Austin metro and one of the area’s top places to work. Six of those original bankers, including tellers, now hold leadership positions within the bank. Frontier Bank has almost $700 million in assets and serves the region from nine Central Texas locations, including a modern Elgin headquarters, just steps from where the portable building stood.
“I’m often asked about the extraordinary growth of our bank and the answer is pretty simple,” says Patrick Johnson, president and CEO. “Frontier was built from the ground up by people who value our communities, know our customers and love the banking business. Frontier was built with Elaine’s leadership and stewardship. When I got here in 2016, she took me under her wing as we embarked together on our next stage of growth. The results of her selfless leadership have been fantastic for our communities, our customers and our bank. Elaine mentored me as she has done countless others, and I am so very grateful for her.”
“My life revolves around my family and the relationships I have with the Frontier family—nothing about that is going to change,” Martin says of retirement. But, she confirms with a laugh, there is one thing that will change: “I will not have an alarm clock.”