Do You Know? Jill Sharp Vaughan

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Photos by Gina Turner

Meet Jill Sharp Vaughan, the first woman inductee into the Texas Banking Hall of Fame. At the early age of eight, she and a best friend would work hard on Saturdays in Knight’s 5 & Dime in Madisonville, Texas stocking shelves and manning the cash register. Since this was before adding machines, they got an early start in math by calculating the change due each customer! Their time spent in the store paid dividends far into the future! It developed in Jill an energetic work ethic which continues to push her toward even more demanding challenges and rewarding accomplishments at an age when most people are beginning to look toward retirement.

You got an early start in the business world! How did this help determine your work ethic?

It has helped me to establish a diligent work ethic, and to understand that success is due to hard work and commitment. I look back with fondness on those days in the 5 & Dime. As soon as I was at an age to have a real job, I worked for Ruth Berry, who had an antique shop and carried James Avery Jewelry. She was a true role model and taught me about the antique trade and how to sell in a retail environment. I worked summers and holidays for her. She was a dear family friend and someone who played a big role in my life. I’ve always worked, even during my college years, earning extra spending money, and through it all, I’ve gained a huge appreciation for what hard work can accomplish.

I understand you grew up in a family of bankers. Shed some light on your family and how you have been inspired in this field.

I grew up in the banking environment, spending afternoons after school visiting my dad and grandfather at the First National Bank of Madisonville where my dad, R. Datus Sharp, was president and CEO from 1968-1993. My grandfather, Datus Sharp, was president until 1968 when he passed away suddenly, and my dad assumed the role of President and CEO. My grandmother, Vera Sharp, worked in the bookkeeping area, but had retired when my dad assumed the role. I was fortunate to work one summer in the bookkeeping department. The employees were willing to teach and train me, and I loved the family-like work environment.

My mom, Lamuriel Sharp, was always very supportive of my dad’s career and all it involved. She kept the house running smoothly, taking my sister Jeri, me, and our many friends to basketball games, volleyball games, and cheerleader practices, as well as entertaining company and friends. She has always been a great inspiration and role model to emulate.

My husband David is an investment advisor in The Woodlands, and our son Luke is presently in graduate school at Texas A&M and will be entering the banking field soon.

Although banking has been our family’s trade, my dad never pushed me in this direction, but instead encouraged me to apply myself in the area in which I felt most skilled. His only advice to me was that my college curriculum must include intermediate accounting. That was a must! He also stressed that position and money are not the key ingredients to success, but the people you work with. He called it “people equity” and was a firm believer that you could not put a price on it! It was excellent advice and has been a motivating factor in all I do. He was very proud and thrilled when I entered banking and was very supportive of my career.

You have strong ties with Sam Houston State University, where you received your Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance in 1983. In what ways have you continued your association with SHSU?

I currently serve on the Smith-Hutson Sam Houston Banking Board and as Chair of the Advisory Board of the College of Business for SHSU. I had the honor of being an inaugural member of the SHSU College of Business Hall of Honor in 2006.

SHSU was one of the first schools to offer a degree in banking, and we currently hire a lot of graduates from their program. They have always been very innovative in their approach to the future. Dr. Bexley, Chair of Banking, has done incredible things to establish this program and has made a big difference in the lives of many students entering the banking profession.

On April 26 of this year, I became the first woman inductee into the Texas Bankers Hall of Fame. It is an honor and I am very humbled to be the first woman inductee when there are many incredible women in banking who would be equally deserving of this accolade.

My goal has always been to be a great banker and to get the job done for my company and my clients. My first boss was a woman and a great inspiration to me. And whether you are a male or female banker, being a team member, being enthusiastic, and doing quality work is what counts. I apply myself and pull my own load on every facet of the job at hand. And throughout the process, I enjoy the people I work with.

You recently moved to a new position within Zions Bancorporation after many years as an executive of Amegy Bank. How have your responsibilities changed?

Well, a little history first. From 1986 to 1996, I served as the Senior Lending Officer and later President of ProBank in The Woodlands while overseeing credit risk management and business development as the bank expanded its footprint within Montgomery County. When the bank sold to BBVA in 1996, I joined Klein Bank and Trust as a Relationship Manager, with oversight of the Montgomery County Commercial lending market. In 2004, the bank merged with Amegy Bank of Texas, where I served as Group Executive Vice President and Director for Regional Commercial Lending. In 2016, I made one of the biggest career shifts to date, going from the sales side to the credit side of the business. From a timing perspective, I hadn’t anticipated changing the direction of my career, but it has been extremely rewarding and challenging. And although my responsibilities have changed, I have loved it. The majority of our credit approvers at our bank have all been lenders, so I believe it is a great philosophy to add a balanced perspective from growing the bank and balancing risk. There is the people aspect to any loan, and that should always factor into our decisions. Also, this new role has allowed me to work across our enterprise and meet with so many different people in different geographies. Pushing myself away from what I know well into areas of new challenges has helped me grow as a professional.

With your demanding schedule, do you have time for hobbies?

Absolutely yes! I make time for family, for outdoor activities, and for caring for our pets. I’m up every morning at 4:00 to feed donkeys, cats, and two rescue dogs who reside with us on our acreage in Montgomery.

I’m co-founder of Rufus Refuge, which is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization based in Madisonville whose purpose is to rescue animals and place them in new homes. I also enjoy photographing wildlife and decorating. And on weekends, I try my very best to grab a nap!

What advice do you have for our readers?

My advice is to work hard and keep an open mind. Timing is not always perfect on opportunities that come your way, but take advantage of them if possible. I was given the opportunity to serve as the president of a bank when I was 34 years old with a 6-month-old baby! This was not the best time to take on an enormous responsibility. This position, in fact, provided the framework that has allowed me to transition into my current role, having the background of not only selling, but managing the risk management and regulatory aspect of the bank. The experience and knowledge I gained was invaluable.

I would advise others to do their best at their jobs and find ways to add value. Make the job yours, not trying to do it as someone else would. Surround yourself with good people and good culture. I enjoy mentoring others, helping them to achieve success in their work and in their lives. This mentoring takes place within my workplace and to public groups as well. But I generally learn more in this experience, so mentoring definitely goes both ways. We are always learning, right?

I’ve learned that a job well done does not just start and stop within one’s office, but is a lifestyle that touches the lives of others. And one last tidbit of advice: “Never stop learning.” The dividends abound!

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