Influential Austin banker Holt calls it a career

Joe Holt, a prominent Austin banker who helped steer the city’s evolution from a college town known for live music and football into a business and technology hub, is retiring after 45 years at what is now Chase.

“We’re very proud that we played a part in that,” Holt, 67, said Tuesday, calling “the belief we had in the promise of the city of Austin” among his best professional judgments.

Among other career highlights, Holt led a team that provided a small Austin-based company known as Dell Computer with its first line of credit in 1986, when the future technology powerhouse was still tiny and largely unknown. The move led to a banking relationship with the company that has continued.

Holt, recalling the initial decision more than 30 years later, said that despite the youth of founder Michael Dell, he liked the business and was impressed by Dell and the people with whom he had surrounded himself.

“Quite honestly, the business was brand new,” Holt said. “But it was founded on very strong principles. It was a good business at that point, just very small.”

Holt also is credited with helping Austin bounce back after the housing bust of the late 1980s and after the collapse of the tech bubble in 2001. He is a former chair of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce who led the organization at a time when it began pushing for the establishment of a medical school in Austin, which now is underway.

“He is one of the business leaders who helped create the innovation economy we now enjoy,” said Mike Rollins, president of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

Holt, a native of Henderson in East Texas, graduated from the University of Texas in 1971 and went to work for Texas Commerce Bank — now Chase — a year later. He worked for the bank in Houston, Dallas and Nacogdoches before moving to Austin in 1984. He became the Austin market manager in 1998, the same year the bank’s name was changed to Chase.

Holt “has been at the very center of Central Texas’ extraordinary progress in economic development, education, and health care,” said Pete Winstead, a founding shareholder at law firm Winstead PC.

Winstead added that Holt also “has been a leader in numerous philanthropic efforts and has set an example for all of us to emulate.”

Holt was inducted into the UT Austin McCombs School of Business Hall of Fame last year. He serves as chairman of the McCombs School of Business Foundation, and he is a lifetime member of the business school’s advisory council. He also is on the board of the Austin Economic Development Corporation, and he has served as a member of the University of Texas at Austin’s Development Board.

Holt said Tuesday that he intends to remain involved in the Austin community but hasn’t made additional plans.

“I’m going to take some time to figure that out,” he said. “Forty-five years is one of those milestones where, ‘OK, I still have some good years ahead of me — I’d like to go do something totally different.’”

Holt will be succeeded as market manager for Austin by Cindy Matula, a graduate of the University of Texas and a 29-year veteran of Chase.

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