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Latino Leaders
Building on Ambition
There was little doubt Eric Contreras would go into finance. The 32-year-old small business specialist with BB&T basically followed in his mother’s footsteps. She came to the United States from San Luis Potosi in Mexico when she was a teenager, married at 18, had Eric at 19 and worked her way up from a position in the courtesy booth at Fiesta seguing into a career in banking and later real estate. Eric, both a first-generation American and the first in his family to go to college, worked his way through the University of Houston Downtown as a teller, later moving over to sales and services.

“I love my career. I love banking,” he said. “And my mother’s ambition – along with the values and morals she and my dad raised me with – is a driving force for me.”

Contreras said that he feels the weight of his family’s history and struggles – his father is one of seven children who was raised on a bare-bones budget – keenly. He’s aware that his parents came to the States seeking opportunity, and worked hard to earn their success. As a Latino, Contreras said that he strives to help others of Latino descent achieve the goals his family did.

“Three years after I’d started at BB&T, I was working in Greenspoint, where there was a big demand for bilingual bankers,” he said. “Our clients were more comfortable speaking in their native language, especially when talking about the intricacies of finance.”

He said that he was able to be not only someone who could literally speak their language, but understand it figuratively as well. American culture runs on credit, he said. But, for many working class Latinos, their lives are driven by whatever cash is in their pockets.

“That’s their budget,” he said. “Or they might have something saved under a mattress, for real. They understand that things like home ownership and college are the right things, but they have no firm idea on how to get there from where they are.”

Contreras now works to help small businesses of all sizes and backgrounds achieve their success, whether it’s adding staff or expanding operations. He loves being able to guide his clients toward their dreams. And he looks forward to the day when he’ll lead a team of his own.

When he’s not working, he’s an avid concertgoer (he’s got tickets to Beyonce this fall) and he enjoys traveling. He thrives on working in Downtown, loving the hum of energy and endless things to do in the city core. He’s very much aware that he owes his achievements not only to his own hard work, but also to the example set for him by his immigrant parents, and he doesn’t take it lightly that he can be an example for others.

“I love to pass on knowledge, to be able to help people in their careers, even having an impact on their personal lives.”

Contreras knows that finance is personal. It’s a key that allows people to fund an education, purchase a house, step onto the path of entrepreneurship. And he’s glad to be someone who can help others get there – the same way he feels his family helped him. 
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