Archive for August, 2014

A banker’s eye view

Nothing will get you a loan denial faster than telling a banker, “There’s no risk in this loan. You are completely secure!” Even cash-secured loans have gone bad when a bank teller failed to see the “hold” on the deposit account pledged to a loan.

Banks take collateral because their profit margins are relatively thin. A venture capitalist can afford for some deals not to work because she’s making a 50% return on the ones that do. At this point in time, banks make about 5% on deals. One bad one can wipe out a hundred good ones.

If the “You are completely secure!” borrower can’t see that humans have a species-wide propensity for stealing defeat from the jaws of victory, he probably is also missing some other key piece of information, say, a competitor clipping at his heels.

Take this to the bank: If a bank has to foreclose on collateral to repay a debt, the bank doesn’t make money. It may break even technically, but when you consider time and attorney fees spent and opportunities missed, it loses money. The only way a bank makes money is when a borrower pays… “as agreed.”

Banks are not alone in this. If a business does work for a fair profit but then has to spend time and money to get the customer to pay up, the business ultimately loses. Its profits evaporate. Enough wild goose chases and the business becomes an unsustainable proposition, an un-going concern.

Our capitalistic system, from banking to beyond, is premised on promises kept. People doing work they agree to do. People making payments they agree to pay. Any interruption in delivery, any commitments broken, weaken the parties involved. Enough broken promises and you have a business, and ultimately a society, in decline.

The core of banking is the “promise to pay.” When an individual deposits money into a bank, the bank promises to pay it back according to the terms of the account. When an individual borrows money from a bank, she signs a promissory note promising to pay it back.

The best repayers of debt are those who keep the promises they make. Some bankers secretly have a greater comfort level lending to someone who’s been married thirty-seven years versus someone who’s been married thirty-seven times.

They prefer those borrowers who have had a few, long-term business partners rather than those who have had dozens of short-term partnerships.

For better or worse, it usually takes many years to repay debt. Bankers want borrowers who are in it for the long haul. Inevitably, things won’t go exactly as planned for a business or a family. But a promise-keeper will adjust with the changes and find a way to keep his word.

The more promises that are kept, the more a person, a family or a business thrives. The more promises broken, the more they decline.

Kept promises are like bricks laid in order. They mount into a strong tower. Broken promises fall out like rubble, providing no shelter from the storms of life.

The kept promise is central to success – in banking, in business and in life.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at


Ebola victim has Texas connection

The two Americans infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia, Africa, have made national news in the last week. One, Dr. Kent Brantly, completed his undergraduate studies at Abilene Christian University (ACU) and his residency training in Fort Worth.

Though I have never met Dr. Brantly, I imagine him much like his older brother, Chad, whom I knew at ACU. Chad was the gentlest, funniest, teddy-bear-est of a man you’ll ever meet. He’s now a dentist in San Angelo.

Even without the alma mater connection, Dr. Brantly’s story would have captured me. The Indiana native was overseeing the Samaritan’s Purse Ebola care center in Monrovia, Liberia, when he was diagnosed with the disease. Samaritan’s Purse is the mission organization of Franklin Graham, son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham.

The recent Ebola outbreak in southwestern Africa has infected roughly 1,300 people and killed more than 700. The symptoms of the disease, which is transferred only through bodily fluids, start like malaria’s: fever, nausea, stomach pain. Eventually, uncontrollable bleeding from body openings can take the lives of victims.

Now why would a bright, young physician leave the prosperity and esteem of American medicine to go to an unknown land to care for victims of a disease with an unknown cure?

I’ll let him answer that. This from a message he gave to his childhood church before leaving for Liberia:

“God has a call on my life. I never heard the voice of God say, ‘Kent, you need to become a doctor and go to Liberia to be a missionary.’ But what I heard were the encouraging words and actions of my friends and family. When you connect the dots, you see a grand picture that God has used to draw my life in a certain direction.”

After seeing images of Dr. Brantly in a haz-mat suit caring for Ebola patients, I remembered another medical missionary.

Father Damien was a Catholic priest who travelled to the then Kingdom of Hawaii in the 1870s. One of the kingdom’s islands, Molokai, had been quarantined as a leper’s colony.

In 1873, Damien volunteered to go to Molokai to care for the lepers even though leprosy was thought to be highly contagious. There, Damien dressed ulcers and gave comfort while building reservoirs, homes and churches. He also made coffins and dug graves.

For sixteen years, Damien struggled alongside the lepers before finally succumbing to the disease himself. “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ,” he told his brother.

I have no doubt that Dr. Brantly meticulously attempted to avoid contracting Ebola. The haz-mat suits were not worn for comfort. I also have no doubt that he knew there was a chance he might still become infected.

But when you are in pursuit of a purpose far above earthly health or worldly wealth, one’s view of risk changes. The thought of not answering a spiritual call seems more risky than the prospect of physical death. “To live is Christ, to die is gain” is how one missionary once put it.

As of press time, Dr. Brantly’s recovery prospects appeared good as warriors continued to pray. His televised ambling from ambulance to Atlanta-area hospital resembled Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind” moonwalk.

Indeed, Dr. Brantly is empowered by something out of this world.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at

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