If roughing it together in the wilderness and cooking for one another build character and team spirit in schoolkids, scouts and soldiers, why shouldn't they do the same for bankers?

In May, FirstCapital Bank of Texas picked 12 "up-and-comers" to join three senior executives on a two-day camping trip in Palo Duro Canyon. Known to hiking enthusiasts as "The Grand Canyon of Texas," Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the nation.

The outing gives employees experience in adjusting to changing circumstances, said Greg Burgess, FirstCapital's chief credit officer and one of the senior executives who participated. It also helps them learn to work more effectively as a team — "not just as a group of individuals," he said.

But the main lesson Burgess hopes they all take away is: "They are capable of more than they might have imagined."

The $987 million-asset, Midland-based bank ranked fourth on the Best Banks to Work For list this year. It conducts the camping trip under a relatively new initiative it calls the "YOUnique Leadership" program.

Employees from three of FirstCapital's banking regions, Midland, Lubbock and Amarillo, embarked on the second annual outing this past spring.

On the first day, the group arrived and set up their tents. The Midland contingent provided tacos for dinner. After the meal, employees, along with Chief Operations Office Tracy Bacon and Senior Vice President Katie Boyd, gathered to hear Burgess deliver a speech on "living intently." The campers shared some laughs and retired to their tents.

After sunrise, the Amarillo employees made breakfast burritos and cinnamon rolls for everyone. The sun slowly climbed, casting light on the multicolored rock formations, steep mesas and far-reaching vistas. Despite temperatures exceeding 90 degrees, 10 participants embarked on a six-mile hike, while five opted for a two-mile trail. After hiking, the team gathered for a fajita lunch prepared by those from Lubbock, including Rudy McElroy, a personal banker.

McElroy cited "team camaraderie" as one of the highlights of the trip, along with the career insight he gained. "My biggest takeaway is the importance of strong mentors in one's leadership growth."

Events like these help define FirstCapital's ethos, Burgess said.

So does how it is back at the office, with highlights like paid community service hours, job shadowing, roundtable discussions with employees, a "shout out" section in the weekly e-newsletter, and a sick leave "bank" where employees donate their time off to others who may need it more.

"We've worked exceedingly hard over the past several years to create a culture where our team members not only enjoy coming to work each day, but look forward to being here," Burgess said.

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