A Message from Andres Garcia

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February 8, 2024 | Article | 5 min | Business Insights

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New Mexico’s economy – traditionally supported by federal and state government, such as the national laboratories and state universities —has had another boost from private big tech helping it chug through recent inflationary trends. Amazon has several centers around the Albuquerque metro area and Meta (Facebook) has a data center south of the city in Los Lunas.

While the giant tech corporations usually rely on national or multinational banks, Andres Garcia, President and CEO of New Mexico Bank & Trust, a division of HTLF Bank, said commercial and industrial businesses supporting those operations are among the bank’s clients. The commercial mix for the bank, which has more than 20 state-wide locations, also includes some agriculture and service businesses.

With roots statewide, the bank strives to provide large-bank capabilities under a community bank model prioritizing partnerships over transactions.

One of those large-bank advantages recently helped a client avoid what could have been a $40,000 loss from a fraud attack (more about that further down).


Along with business growth opportunities, Garcia said the employment provided by new tech growth and government spending has created a steady demand for affordable homes in the state, particularly along the Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque corridor, despite rising interest rates.

“Demand for that housing is surprising still,” he said. “Especially when you’re looking at probably the highest mortgage rate environment that we’ve had, at least in my banking career of more than 18 years. We continue to have houses being built and then sell at a pretty quick tick when they are in the right kind of price range.”

A drop in interest rates would help homebuilders and associated contractors, but “they’re still building a lot of homes,” Garcia said.

The Amazon and Meta plants also support area contracting businesses and the federal government has also created more infrastructure in the last year.

Quote from Andres Garcia

“We’re pouring a lot of cement. We’re building a lot of walls. It keeps a lot of people busy and employed,” he said.


Like businesses in other states, inflation has forced New Mexico companies to manage their budgets more efficiently.

“Our economy is really fragile right now with a lot of volatility and competition,” Garcia said.

Garcia is concerned about dependence on government projects if budgets were cut to rein in spending due to inflation. When public funds get squeezed, private enterprises may have to scramble to replace revenue.

“New Mexico depends on our state and federal governments as a pass through for a lot of our employees here. But how long will that ride out?” he said.

New Mexico’s high gross receipts taxes also hinder business attraction without offsets like tax breaks, he said.


To stay resilient, companies must plan for best and worst-case scenarios, such as higher borrowing expenses or cash-flow difficulties, Garcia said.

“How long can they digest this heightened interestrate environment? What are they doing to manage their liquidity?” he said.

While many indicators suggest interest rates will be flat or dip slightly in 2024, an international crisis could change that outlook, he said.

He recommends business owners examine their receivables/payables cycles for efficiencies. And leverage available technology, like business credit cards to hold onto cash longer.


The Bank’s Commercial Card allows 55 days between purchase and payment, allowing businesses to keep their cash deposited in a higher-yield account.

“The cash cycle is the key to success in a challenging economy,” he said.

One client, a paper manufacturer, had changed management from one generation to the next and the bank was able to move $20 million in payables from checks to a card.

“They were cutting checks every week and those will essentially be cashed in three-to-five days,” Garcia said. The transition meant they got 55-days of float and reduced transaction charges. The bank was also able to divide the deposits and put part of the cash into a money market account paying 4 percent. “That was a huge win and a differentiator for us,” Garcia said.

Banking with a community bank also means customers know their bankers.

Quote from Andres Garcia

“We have local business relationships across all business segments. We have relationship managers who are boots on the ground here in New Mexico. You know, one-to-one, elbow-to-elbow,” Garcia said.

The bank can help evaluate business plans for financial fitness and offers an annual review for clients. “It’s valuable for the client, but it’s equally valuable for us.”

Those reviews help banks serve their clients better and help insulate clients in a highly competitive business environment, he said.

Close banking relationships, Commercial Card and Treasury Management can also help small-and medium-size businesses stay ahead of fraud.

“We’ve had an uptick in fraud in New Mexico,” Garcia said, adding that fraudsters prey on small-and medium-size businesses.

Often because of those close-working relationships, businesses will pick up the phone and call if they suspect someone is impersonating their bank.

The Commercial Card is safer than checks if customers carefully monitor charges and report fraud within the required window of time.

But for businesses still using checks, there’s Positive Pay.

Positive Pay allows customers to review account numbers, check amounts and payee names before the bank pays the check.

One customer saw immediate benefits after switching to Positive Pay.

Within days they had a check stolen but caught it because of the fraud management tool.

“It saved them $40,000. You know to a smaller business $40,000 is someone’s salary. I think we made a client for life,” Garcia said.

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