February 20th, 2024

When Risks Turn into Greatness

By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.

A Copus Christi native, Gibert Garcia, managing partner of Garcia Hamilton and Associates, L.P., comes from a family where education was valued. His parents didn’t go to college, but they were “hardworking and always instilled on all of us to get an education.” A product of public schools, which Garcia is very proud of, he never traveled much outside of Texas, but his life changes when he got into Yale University.

Prior to going to Yale, Garcia didn’t know where he was going to go to school, or what he was going to do, but Yale really opened his eyes to “New Horizons.” When he arrived at Yale, he initially thought he was going to be a doctor or a lawyer because his parents told him they were good professions to pursue. However, the sight of blood made him sick, and he doesn’t enjoy reading and writing so being a doctor and a lawyer were off the table.

It wasn’t until a friend randomly gave him a flyer about a new internship called SEO. Garcia now looks back and says this was probably “fate,” because of the impact it had on his life. The organization started in the sixties as an organization to hep inner city youth finish high school and college. In 1980, it started helping people of color, undergrads, get on Wall Street as summer interns. Garcia made it known that he would’ve never been in this business if it wasn’t for this program.

It’s the summer of 1983 and a 19-year-old Garcia was placed as a summer intern in the Prince of Capitalism, the number on bond firm in the history of firms called Solomon Brothers. “I flourished and I loved it. From my first day of my summer internship, when I was looking at the gallery over the trading floor and saw people screaming and hollering, I saw paper everywhere, and I knew…it was like a message came to me to be one of those guys, and I’ve been one ever since.”

Garcia graduated from Yale University on a Friday in May 1985 and started working in New York that Monday. A fast transition into the workforce left Garcia thrilled and excited for his new adventure. “I couldn’t wait to go work at Salomon Brothers and couldn’t wait to go live in New York City and be a part of this incredible thing we call capitalism in the markets.” He flourished and was the first Hispanic Vice President in the history of the firm in 1987. He also saw the birth and development of all the products that we have learned and use today in the bond market.

He worked at Salomon Brothers for five years, and even though he loved it, he had an opportunity to return home to Texas. He went from the sell side of the business to the buy side of managing money. He then joined former Mayor Henry Cisneros to start a money management firm. Cisneros decided to join the cabinet and “the office of government ethics made it very difficult,” so they sold the firm. Garcia the joined his current firm in 2002, and at that time the firm was a traditional money management firm and it managed stocks. Right around the time he arrived, they had 200 million in bonds, but the firm was struggling in stock performance. They ended up losing the equity business, but the good news was that they started building a bond practice and bought back their firm because it had been sold. “We became in control of our destiny,” Garcia stated. Currently, the firm has 16 partners, which is filled with a diverse group of people. “No firm looks like ours in America…there are roughly 75% of the 39 people that work here are women…and roughly 70% are Black and Hispanic.” He proudly emphasized again that “No firm looks like ours in America.” The firm has won multiple awards for performance, best place to work, and so much more. “We are proof positive that there is talent in the minority community. There is talent amongst women, and if you put them in a place together, or will just be open minded to find them and provide opportunity, they’ll flourish.” Garcia stressed that this translates into good performance and stability and growth.

The firm currently manages 18 billion for approximately 400 institutional clients, and the average account size is a little over 40 million with half their clients under 13 million. They still cater to smaller pension plans. “That’s how we grew our business. When you’re 200 million, the only opportunities you’re going to get is smaller amounts,” he noted.

When it comes to community engagement, the firm is very active in the community. They have provided summer internships for people of color since 2008. The interns are very active and are learning and are on the trading floor and sitting with their traders. “They’re learning and we’re pushing them because at the end of the day, if our youth are not exposed to this industry because of the industry’s barriers of entry, we’ll expose them.” Garcia and his firm want young people to know that this is a lucrative career that is challenging and exciting. They want to make sure that our youth see the opportunity, whether they choose to go in it or not.

In the last six years, the firm has donated over $3 million dollars to various non-profits in the city and in the nation. During Covid, they bought and distributed 60,0000 masks when it was hard for people to get masks. They distributed thousands of hand sanitizers and even sent supplies to people in Detroit and New Orleans. The firm continues to do great things in the community.

In addition, all the partners have served on different boards. One of the most wonderful things that Garcia had the opportunity to be a part of was believing in former Mayor Anise Parker and being her campaign chairperson. When she won, he was one of the heads of transition and had the incredible honor of the transition being held at his office. Paker also named Garcia as the chair of Metro. He will never forget that phone call. He was shocked, but excited for the honor. With no background in transit and not having name recognition at that time, Parker thought Garcia was perfect for the position. Metro was in a difficult place at that time and Garcia went in “very methodically” and helped rebuild the public’s trust and made great improvements to the system. They did such great work that Metro received Transit Agency of the Year for all of North America in 2015. “I had a wonderful experience that I cannot thank Anise Parker enough for entrusting in me such an incredible opportunity as well as surrounding me with a great board and metro having a very good staff.” Garcia also complimented his great staff and how they allowed him to spend a lot of time and energy with Metro.

Garcia currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees for Dallas Police & Fire Pension System. He has also served on the board of SEO since 1987. He is the longest serving board member of SEO.

In addition, Garcia is proud to have served on two SEC FACA Committees: SEC’s Fixed Income Market Structure Advisory Board and SEC’s Asset Management Advisory Committee, where he led the Diversity and Inclusion subcommittee.

When discussing the possibility of Garcia running for Mayor, he said it would be an incredible honor, but that he is “praying on it” and putting it in “God’s hands.” He wants to talk with his family, his clients, his partners, and just pray on it.

Garcia has done a lot of great things in his life and the firm is the largest independent bond firm in the state of Texas. They are also the second largest firm money management firm in all of Houston. As it relates to MWBE, they are ranked four or five. Almost half the firm is from the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. “That’s proof that we have great local talent here.”

No matter how many things Garcia is involved in or how busy he may get at the firm, his family comes first. He is married to his lovely wife, of 23 years, who is a recently retired optometrist. They have four kids. He has been very active in the lives of his children and has even coached 40 seasons of soccer. He loves all his children and expressed how each of them are all different and are all excelling in their own ways and continue to make him and his wife proud. He spoke on how his wife has been very supportive. “I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do without her,” he said.

Lastly, Garcia has a radio show! After being tired of hearing negative news all the time and having the opportunity to be a guest on another radio show, Garcia decided to start his own. He has been doing this for a little over a year now and is featured every Monday on five radio station; KWWJ, 1360 AM and 96.9 FM, The Legendary KYOK, KCOH 1230 AM, Sangeet Radio, 1460 AM and 95.1 FM, and Aliento Radio 1540 AM and 101.7 FM in Houston, Texas.

The radio show is called A Tip from Gilbert- Talk Inspiration and Prayer. It’s not your normal show. I’m not like bashing people. It’s all about things of interest and I think the interest of the community.” His show always has an uplifting speaker. He has had many guests on the show such as political candidates, sex trafficking victims who survived, a cancer survivor, and so much more. He will always have an element of inspiration and prayer. “I love this show. I hope I do it for the rest of my life. I really enjoy doing it.” If you are interested in calling in for one of his shows, you can call 832-570-8075.

In the keynote address he gave to the graduates of the University of Houston Downtown business school; he told them to “take risks.” He impressed upon them that “At the end of the day, you’re on this journey one time and you want no regrets. Take chances. That’s how greatness happens.” He concluded with a message to our youth stating, “I was you not that long ago. So, dream big because dreams can come true with hard work and perseverance.”

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