Who is James Baca: The Notorious Banker?

Good question.

Some days, I wish I knew as well. This is what I do know, I am here to help.

I did 13 years. 13 long years. Not in the penitentary, but at 0002050 and 0009731. Those sound like they can be inmate numbers, but they are actually the “cost center (store) numbers” of the two Bank of America branches I worked at that have since closed down. Socorro, NM and Las Cruces, NM were my stops on this crazy Bank of America journey I was on.

One building is currently another bank, and the other is an empty shell of a building that is in serious need of renovation before it is good enough to be an Herbalife “Fitness” center.

2007 – Teller in Socorro, NM
August 2018 – My last month at BofA

Ahh, Herbalife, one of the many businesses I opened accounts for.

They are known for overselling every person with a dream, mainly because I had a dream to be the best banker that I was. But you know what? I was always the best banker, because I was forced to oversell every person with a dream, and my charm, my confidence, and my conversation skills were used to fleece America that much more.

James in 2009

I was near number 1 in the city, market, region, whatever method that Bank of America segmented, I was always one of the best. I didn’t get paid or treated like the best. I got treated like how Bank of America treats its clients, full of excitement at first, then apathy, then full on despised for not going away.

I never missed a day of work. If I would lose my voice, I would still show up and try to help any way I can, despite the fact I was sick. I remember one day when I was riddled at work with the flu, I would get chewed out for not hoarsely pitching the latest credit card promotion.

Years ago, I lost my uncle to cancer, and instead of sympathy and condolences, I get a thinly-veiled attempt to discredit my reason for the day off, asking me questions about my relationship with my uncle to discredit my closeness to him in order to keep me at work. After all, it was the 1st of the month.

Did you and your uncle ever go to sporting events?

Did your uncle show up at Christmas dinner or was he more of a distant uncle?

Did he have nicknames for you?

These were really some of the questions asked by a market leader of my late uncle, and I was summarily denied the day off to attend his funeral.

That was strike one with me and BofA.

2016, I decide to do an adult thing and with my wife, get a home loan with Bank of America. I mean, I only sell the damn things for them, so I might as well practice what I preach.

119 days, 3 credit pulls on my wife and 7 days of sleeping on the floor later, We still didn’t have closing documents, and Bank of America was asking for a 4TH (4TH!!!) appraisal on the home, which runs over $500 each time. It was systematically a tactic used to make us want to give up our dream. I have heard stories like this since, from many people, mostly of color or in an economically disadvantaged area that this happens to them as well.

I emailed the head of consumer lending at the time, D. Steve Boland BLASTING the home loan department for doing to us what I blindly at the time didn’t realize they did to others, and that is stall the process until the people they don’t want to help withdraw their application or the realtors get pissed at the buyer for “being unprepared”. I told them that I was sleeping on a floor of an apartment with no running water to shower for work, where I was then expected to get home loan apps to put people through the same stuff.

We get a reply. Not from Boland. Do you think he answers his own mail? No. Some concierge writes back and tells us we will speak to someone else for help. We call that guy, and he doesn’t pick up the phone. (BTW, I have all emails and documents from this experience that I will publish in book form someday)

My Home. BofA put my wife and I through hell to get it.

I stood firm in fighting back against my own company. I wasn’t going to let them take my dream.

3 days later, I got my house after nearly giving up on everything. I threatened to quit. I threatened to go to the media. We sign the closing docs and 2 days after getting the keys to our new home, Bank of America sends us an overnight letter telling us that they sold our mortgage to a small company in Tennessee called Roundpoint. It was their way of basically telling us, “You people are problems, and we never wanted your loan.” That was strike two.

September 2017 was the last straw. My twin nieces Ariya and Briella were born at 22 weeks, way way too early. I feared for their lives. We went from going to a football game on a Saturday night to being an aunt and uncle again several months before we anticipated.

I did what I don’t normally do, and that’s pray. I prayed everything would be ok. Briella passed away the next day. Ariya survived, and she’s still doing amazing to this day, but not after an insane fight to stay alive.

The morning of the passing of Briella, I decided to go see my “work family” and tell them I would be gone for a day or two while we mourn. I was in no condition to work. I had been crying all night. I had lost a niece. Instead of hugs and affection that I had come to expect from the people I considered friends, I was met with a guilt trip.

“James, who’s going to open accounts? It’s the end of the quarter, we need to finish strong.”

Are you fucking kidding me?

I was made to feel bad that I wanted to miss a day a work, after never missing a day of work in the last 6 years. It was insanity. I was crying and I wanted to hit someone.

My beautiful niece, Ariya, 2 years later, still the strongest little one I know.

I was forced to work 3 hours in the back doing training, because I had went to work without proper dress attire. I was there until someone emailed my direct manager in El Paso about the tragic news and that I needed to go.

I get a half-hearted apology and a blessing to leave via email (I printed it out to remember how shitty people could be). Instead of mourning, I nearly drank myself into blacking out that day, because I couldn’t believe I put up with stuff like this for a company I gave my all for. I still worked there another year, even after that.

Bank of America decided to divest of my branch at 250 w. Amador in Las Cruces, NM on August 7, 2018. They said that “so many people are doing things digitally now that there was no need for the branch”. This was a lie.

My clientele of mostly poor folks, elderly folks with flip phones and homeless people who get VA checks and pull it all out in cash every month was left unbanked. There was another branch ten miles away that most couldn’t or wouldn’t want to go to. It’s the other side of town, but may as well be the other side of the country to them. They were stuck.

I was not stuck, or so at least I thought that was the case. The whole summer I was promised a role as manager at the other branch, and I would be the only one from my closing branch transferring. I was told how important I was to Bank of America.

Nine days after I transferred to another bank, I was summarily fired for some typo I didn’t know I did that caused a $4.95 alleged loss to a bank which made $28,100,000,000 that year. They said I “took advantage of my supervisory capabilities”. Um…Ok.

It was all BS to just get rid of what they perceived as an extra person they didn’t need. I was told how important I was in May to continue selling, selling, selling for the closing branch so they can milk every last drop out of the area before leaving, and then telling us all to go get fucked, including the customers.

I had recently turned down an interview for a bank manager job elsewhere that paid $20k a year more because I thought BofA was loyal to me, and they saw the “Value” (a word they love) of my hard work and skills. To Hispanics like me, loyalty means everything.

One day of crying was all I needed to move on from the stunning loss of my job and the heartbreak I had for my clients.

I started getting my resume ready one day for the next stop in my career, and then I followed that by one day of browsing Twitter about Bank of America experiences. I had never really used Twitter except for basketball and pro wrestling news. In those few short hours, I was stunned at how awful BofA was treating clients. This was all day, every day, in every locale.

I then searched Wells Fargo and was equally appalled. It became a call to action for me. I saw these issues that people were in, knowing how banks were NOT helping them, and seeing real American people in worse financial shape BECAUSE of the big banks, and I wanted to so something about it!

I decided to be an outspoken advocate for the consumer right then and there, and now, my Twitter account, The Notorious Banker gets tens of millions of impressions a month, tens of thousands of eyeballs viewing my work, and thousands of downloads an episode of my podcast, The Notorious Banker.

Life is hard, and life is tight with money. I went from making $45,000 to $9,000 one year to the next, and that was an eye-opener, but I never missed a bill. I am motivated to keep working until I find amazing financial support for this project, and it certainly is a million dollar idea.

I am happy and committed to helping the common bank customer fight back against these banks with one powerful thing..

Not my fists, although I am 6’2″ 290lbs, and I can beat you up.

Knowledge is power, and we will destroy them with word of mouth, speaking out, shared experiences and our will.

I am a really egotistical guy at times, which can make me the wrong person some days to be this advocate. I was born and conditioned myself to be “me first”. Look at this page and you will see a thousand uses of “I”, which makes me want to edit this whole thing.

But I have humbled myself enough to make sure that this long bio is the only elongated boasting about me that I will do. It’s all about the clients, and I will be there for you. I promise. Let’s kick big bank ass!