Smaistrla, Ray

Name: 
Smaistrla, Ray
Title: 
Senior Vice President of Amegy Bank
Texas A&M Class: 
1985
Inducted: 
2015

Biography:

Growing up on a farm in East Bernard, Texas, Ray learned the responsibilities of the business world early. He was driving a tractor at age 8, a cotton picker at 9, and a combine at 12. Ray was a principal source of labor for the family’s sharecropping enterprise as evidenced by the family farm shutting down when he left for college. Ray graduated from East Bernard High School in 1981 and attended Texas A&M University where he earned his B.S. in Agricultural Economics and his Master of Ag Finance in 1985 and 1987, respectively. While at A&M, Ray was active in the Ag Economics club and a member of the Gamma Sigma Delta honor society. Ray was responsible for all of his own finances during his time in college and held multiple jobs, both during the school year and summer.

Ray is a first-generation college graduate and a lifetime Aggie. Among other reasons, he decided to attend Texas A&M University to satisfy one of his father’s personal goals, to graduate a child from a major university. His major, Agricultural Economics, was selected because, although Ray did not care to become a farmer, he wanted to stay close to the agricultural industry. The Agribusiness option of the major gave him the economics and business base he was seeking. Ultimately, Ray wanted to find a job in the financial sector so to support his degree, he followed his counselor’s advice and took accounting and business-related classes for most of his elective courses, finishing with 33 hours of accounting coursework. 

Ray secured a job with the Farm Credit Administration (FCA) in 1987 and examined banks throughout the Farm Credit System. The main focus of his examination experience was reviewing Federal Land Bank and Production Credit Association credits, preparing the system for a significant consolidation. He stayed with FCA for a year and a half and left as an Examiner III with valuable experience. 

In June of 1988, Ray joined Texas Commerce Bank (TCB) in the Middle Market Banking group in Houston. The bank had recently merged with Chemical Bank and ultimately evolved to JP Morgan Chase. TCB was a major commercial bank in Houston and he joined the bank as a commercial analyst. His banking career progressed quickly and Ray received an early promotion to Vice President in January 1992. With each promotion, Ray became responsible for more loan volume and more clients.

In 1999, Ray was asked to join the Chase Private Bank to concentrate his efforts on high net worth individuals and large law firms. He maintained a significant portfolio and remained in this position until 2001 when he realized that his job satisfaction surrounded the entrepreneur and the special bond formed between the business owner and banker. At that time, he returned to middle market commercial banking with Chase in 2001 where he stayed until July of 2006.

In 2006, Ray joined Amegy Bank, a large regional commercial bank with a majority of its presence in Houston. In his current role, Ray is responsible for managing a portfolio of a $1 billion in loans and $1.3 billion in deposits, managing a team of five lenders and support staff, actively prospecting for new business in order to facilitate growth, and serving as a trusted business advisor to both clients and prospects. In his day-to-day responsibilities, Ray most enjoys the relationships he is able to build with business owners/entrepreneurs and the satisfaction of gaining someone’s trust. One of his most rewarding transactions was helping a client secure a 22 million dollar loan and helping that client implement the transaction, generating an overall profit exceeding 20 million within six months.

Ray serves on multiple committees within Amegy Bank and on several committees outside of Amegy, including the Greater Houston Partnership, The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Committee, and The Timbergrove Sports Association. Ray is a legacy sponsor of the Rural Entepreneurship program in the Department of Agricultural Economics. He frequently appears in class as a Prof-For-A-Day and is a valued mentor to both current students and “Survivors” of the program.

Ray has been married to his wife, Yolanda ’88, for 13 years. They have two children, AnnaLyse ’26 and Reid ’28. Both children attend St. Anne Catholic School and are active in sports teams that Ray coaches.

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