This fall, the stage lights will dim, and hushed whispers of an expectant audience will envelope the theater as Belinda Silva does what she always does…serve her community.
This time however, she’ll be clad in a shimmering costume as she competes in Dancing with the Tulsa Stars, a local charity event that supports San Miguel Middle School.
A bilingual financial center leader at Bank of Oklahoma, Silva usually dances in the dynamic world of finance, but she found herself volunteering to cut a rug to Michael Jackson because of her abiding commitment to service.
“I believe I’m here to help others in whatever I’m doing. I want to build trust, motivate people and support those around me,” said Silva.
Five years ago, Belinda Silva moved sight unseen from California to Tulsa with her husband and daughter to be closer to his family. For Belinda, the move unlocked a life of servant leadership that focuses on helping lift Tulsa’s Hispanic community.
Take, for example, her approach during the pandemic a few years ago. Businesses were closed and people were sick, but essential services, like banking centers, were trying to remain open. When almost all her staff or members of their family became sick, Silva could have requested that her flagship banking center in Tulsa close, but she didn’t. Instead, she kept the branch functioning with a skeleton crew to ensure the predominantly Hispanic community in the area had access to banking services.
Subtle, but impactful, acts like this are interwoven throughout Silva’s life.
Level playing field
For instance, she has been a catalyst for change in the banking industry, as she strives to increase access to financial education among the growing Hispanic population. She was selected to be one of 15 employees that worked to develop a Hispanic/Latino strategy at Bank of Oklahoma, serving alongside Jhoanna Astudillo, manager of consumer monetary operations.
“Individuals like Belinda who have a unique blend of servant leadership skills and a humble approach stand out as pioneers,” said Astudillo. “She is the face of Bank of Oklahoma and BOK Financial® in the Hispanic community.”
Building on our longstanding commitment to community development, our Hispanic/Latino strategy works with organizations like UMA Tulsa to address income inequality and workforce development in the Hispanic community. UMA empowers Hispanic/Latino small businesses through its academy cohort and the La Colmena women's business accelerator, providing essential tools for success. Silva hopes these services will help her community understand wealth and the economic opportunities available.
“It’s not just about tomorrow, it’s about decades from now,” explained Silva. “It’s helping people meet their long-term goals as they establish themselves, buy homes and start businesses. And it’s about making sure they have the skills and services to succeed.”
Silva may be young, but she is “old school” when it comes to relationships, evidenced by her long-standing relationships with clients. She’s been there every step of the way with some of her customers, from opening their first bank account to starting a business.
Silva, whose husband immigrated from Mexico, says she can empathize with some of the newer members of the community.
“I know what’s it like to be in some of my clients’ shoes. Sometimes, they need someone at the bank they can trust, and I strive to be that person. I want every interaction to be a memorable moment and I encourage my staff to do the same.”- Belinda Silva, financial center leader at Bank of Oklahoma
Bilingualism builds bridges
Staying consistent with her aspirations, Silva’s LinkedIn profile boasts a colorful banner reading, “Celebrate Latino Voices” that matches her vibrant personality. As a member of the Latin America Chamber of Commerce and as a bilingual woman, she recognizes the power of effective communication as a bridge between diverse communities. Her linguistic abilities not only ensure smoother interactions with clients but also allow her to address their financial concerns with empathy and clarity.
Helping people grow
Meanwhile, as the manager of four branches, Silva also loves seeing the personal and professional development of her staff.
“I want my employees to get promoted and to be successful in their personal and career lives, I try to identify skills within my people and encourage them,” Silva said. “Helping people grow is what gets me out of bed in the morning. If I couldn’t do that, I’d probably find another job.”
Lifting a community through volunteerism
Silva is a regular volunteer at San Miguel Middle School, which focuses on promising students who are educationally behind and who fall below the poverty line. She first got involved with the school over a year ago where she has worked on projects to beautify the campus among other projects. Juan Miret, director of advancement at San Miguel, was particularly impressed with her presentation at a career day event to showcase opportunities in banking, fraud monitoring and securities. He later asked her to participate in Dancing with the Tulsa Stars, one of the school’s largest fundraisers.
“She wants the students to see someone with their background thrive and break the cycle of poverty,” said Miret. “She is a volcano of energy. When she embraces a task, it will get done.”
In April, Silva was the first BOK Financial Corporation Group* employee to graduate from the Tulsa Hispanic Leadership Institute, which helps Latinos develop and expand their knowledge, leadership skills, and connections to take an active role in the community.
But Silva was already a leader long before she joined the program.
“Over and over again, she shows up in tough times without complaint,” said Astudillo. “People remember her. She cares, not just with her words but with her actions.”
Silva also volunteers with La Cosecha (The Harvest), an organization that provides groceries and other essential items to people in need, and UMA Tulsa, an association that fosters economic development by providing courses to small business owners and by building partnership to develop a supportive business ecosystem.
“She is lifting the entire community through example and leadership. She might not even realize how many people she has informally mentored, including me.”- Jhoanna Astudillo, manager of consumer monetary operations
Looking ahead, Silva envisions a financial landscape that is more inclusive, transparent and accessible to all. Her goal is to continue growing her employees and create lasting change, not only within her industry but across all aspects of the community.
As she triple-steps her way across the dance floor, Silva reminds us that life is about serving others, whether at work, in the community or on stage.
*BOK Financial Corporation Group includes BOKF, NA; BOK Financial Securities, Inc., BOK Financial Private Wealth, Inc., and BOK Financial Insurance, Inc. BOKF, NA operates TransFund and Cavanal Hill Investment Management, Inc. BOKF, NA operates banking divisions across eight states as: Bank of Albuquerque; Bank of Oklahoma; Bank of Texas and BOK Financial.