I recently caught up with Irene Burg, Business Banker with Frost Bank, to learn more about the petite, charming woman who is seen regularly at our United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce ribbon cuttings and various Chamber events. In addition to her title at the bank, Irene is the Chamber Champion Chair and was named Chamber Champion of the Year for 2021. Chamber Champions are local volunteers who support local businesses and economic growth throughout the community.
Irene was born in Fiji and has lived in many places throughout the United States, including Indiana, California, and Seattle. She finally settled in the Coastal Bend with her son 18 years ago. She began her career with Frost Bank shortly thereafter as Secretary for the Wealth Advisors Department. She was quickly promoted to Admin for the Trust officers, and a few years later to Administrative Assistant to the Regional President at the time, Mr. Mike Carrell. She worked with him for 13 years.
“He was the most wonderful mentor most anyone could ever have!” she shared with me, smiling and almost teary-eyed. “He knew everybody and everything. And a lot of what I am doing now, I learned from him. I had no idea at the time [that] I would be doing commercial lending, but it all just fell into place.”
Burg was in a transition period when Carrell decided to retire. At the height of the pandemic, Burg was asked to help process Paycheck Protection Programs (PPP) loans.
“It was a new thing for everybody. We were all thrown into the middle of it and we all worked hard to learn it together. It really made me appreciate working for Frost because I witnessed how much they really care for their customers, they don’t just talk about it! All of us worked day and night to get those loans processed. I remember one day I was working from home until about midnight. I emailed one of our CPAs so she would have some specific information first thing in the morning, not realizing she also was still up working. She emailed me right back and said, ‘Irene go to bed, it’s after midnight!’”
Burg continued, “I learned so much about Commercial Lending during that time, about what people’s needs are when a crisis like that happens. We came together to do everything we could because small businesses were really struggling.”
Two weeks later she was offered and accepted the position she holds now as Business Banker and Commercial Lender.
“I love it!” she beamed. “I get to meet people and my whole job is to make people’s dreams come true by helping them grow their businesses.”
Frost Bank had been a long-time member of United Corpus Christi Chamber of Commerce (UCCCC), but about a year and half ago her boss Lori Dellinger asked her to become a Chamber Champion. Burg recalls being told it would be a good way for her to meet more people and network, so she took it as her boss’s blessing.
“She’s very supportive, she allows me to do my job but still go to ribbon cuttings and other chamber events,” praised Burg. She continued, “It’s become one of my favorite things to do, to meet people, talk to them, figure out who they are, find some commonality, and enjoy their friendship and company. I started meeting more people, getting customers, and people started to know me and trust me. It’s all about building relationships and trust and you offer someone a good product and you help them through situations and they’ll keep coming back. They give referrals and that’s how I grow my portfolio.”
Not only has she grown her portfolio, but she has been invaluable to the United Chamber and to Efrain Franco, Jr., Membership Coordinator. Burg was named Chamber Champion of the Year for bringing in the highest number of new members in 2021.
“I wouldn’t enjoy this nearly as much without Efrain. He’s wonderful, he’s supportive, and he thinks I’m great – which is even more wonderful,” she laughs. “He’s very positive and he loves what he does and it shows and so he brings excitement to every event. He’s a friend to all and I want to be like that, too! I aspire to be like all my mentors. I love going to events and giving hugs because I feel like I know everybody by now and if I don’t know them, they’ll get a warm greeting and a hug when they come in and then they’ll know me real well! I don’t have any real family ties here, besides my son, so my chamber duties serve as a social outlet.”
Burg is a real asset to the Coastal Bend community and I just had to ask her how she was able to balance it all and what words of advice she had to share with other business professionals.
“I do value my private time,” she began to explain, “so on the weekends I tend to stay home and just do my own thing. I enjoy my own company. I try to build the life that I want and be happy and not stress out. I mean you can’t always avoid stress, but I try to create an environment where I feel like I’m living a good life. If you enjoy what you do you can make it work, you find the balance. You have to have a supportive team; you don’t do anything alone. You have to have the support of the people around you. I feel very blessed to have the support of my Frost family and my chamber family. I live in this beautiful city, the friendliest place I’ve ever been! People are happy, they’re smiling, I love the warm weather, I love the sun. I step out into it and it feels like a hug!”