Marva Halbert is a Vice President and Relationship Manager at Cass Commercial Bank. Cass is a unique bank headquartered in St. Louis since 1906. Cass focuses on commercial privately held businesses in the areas of construction, engineering, freight, legal, healthcare, hospitality, manufacturing, distribution, franchise, churches and non-profits. Cass is the banking arm of Cass Information Systems, which is one of the largest third-party supplier payment processors in the country.
Marva has been with Cass Commercial Bank for 12 years and has been in commercial lending in the St. Louis area for 30 years. Marva grew up in the small town of Cuba, Missouri, where she started her working career at the age of 13. Her undergraduate degree is in Banking from Missouri State University. It was a professor at MO State who said “have you ever considered law school? I think you could do it.” She moved to St. Louis after graduating with a J.D. degree from UMKC School of Law.
Q: When did you decide to get into the commercial real estate industry? Was it always your focus?
A: In law school, I was drawn to the classes on real estate law. I was an assistant editor with The Urban Lawyer publication at UMKC Law School. When I started in banking as a Commercial Lender at Landmark Bank, real estate was just a natural part of what we did. I like to look at a building and feel like I was part of that. Over the years, my clients have included various operating companies as well as businesses directly related to commercial real estate.
Q: What are some of the things you love about your job?
A: My favorite thing about my job is learning all the different ways people have figured out how to make money. Each business is different. Every business lives in a piece of real estate because every business is tied to people. I love learning from my clients and helping them reach their goals.
Q: What is your CREW-St. Louis origin? When did you join? Why did you become a member?
A: Crystal Kennedy of Thompson Coburn invited me to play in the CREW-St. Louis golf tournament in 1997 or 1998. After that, I was hooked. I had found that often a women’s business organization was geared more toward the start-up type businesses and that was not my typical client. I was impressed with the number of business leaders in the industry that I saw in attendance. I believe I joined right after that.
Q: What was the first CREW event you attended and what were your impressions?
A: I played in the CREW-St. Louis golf tournament at Forest Hills Country Club. It was fun! I was impressed that those attending were a variety of the influential people in the commercial real estate industry. And women! I also was impressed that everyone talked to everyone. I felt very welcomed. To this day I have never attended a CREW-St Louis event, nor a National Convention, that I didn’t enjoy and learn something.
Q: Please name a few of the projects you’ve been involved in, specifically in the St. Louis area that you are proud of.
A: In my early banking career I financed a lot of home builders. It’s fun to drive around St. Charles County and know who built x subdivision, or to look at historic buildings in the City, such as Maryland Plaza, and know who gave them new life. From the commercial and industrial side, I might work with a contractor or a business who owns their building.
Q: What other associations or volunteer activities are you involved with?
A: I was a big sister with Big Brothers and Big Sisters for several years. I served on the Board of Directors and am former Chairman of the Board for The St. Peters Chamber of Commerce and the St. Charles Community College Foundation. I was involved for years with the Blue Ribbon fundraising committee for United Services for Children. I have been Treasurer and President of the PTO for my sons’ school.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted you and your organization?
A: Each and every person has been impacted by COVID-19. Each of my clients is affected in different ways. The CARES act was passed to help the economy. Within a week, banks were processing applications for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program with little guidance from the SBA. It was all hands-on deck at Cass Bank, working 7 days a week with over half of us working remotely from our homes for the first time. The Cass team reached out to our clients immediately. We have been able to process about 340 PPP loans for a total of $180 million. That represented a 20% increase in our total loan portfolio processed and funded in a matter of a few short weeks. The loans are guaranteed and guided by the SBA but it is the banks who processed and funded the loans. The banks will hold the balances of the loans that don’t get forgiven through the process.
Now is the time during which clients are making use of those funds to help support their payroll and thus their businesses. We are working with each client to be supportive and help them through this uncertain time. I’m consulting with my clients every day about the changing situation and trying to help them predict the future for their business.
Q: What else would you like your fellow CREW-St. Louis members to know about you?
A: I’m a boy mom. Scott (24) is a District Sales Manager for DOT Foods. Carson (13) is a 7th grader at Bryan Middle School. Carson attended a CREW advisory board meeting in his infant seat just after we adopted him. I’ve been a member of CREW for over 20 years now and it remains the most professional organization I’ve ever been involved with - not just the most professional “women’s” organization. If you can go to a national convention some year, do so.