PRESIDENT & CEO, CITIZENS BUSINESS BANK
BY JENNIFER SCHREIER PELCZARSKI
A true leader is defined by his or her ability to empower, lead by example and set a standard of excellence in a corporate culture that permeates every facet of a thriving organization. At 49, Chris Myers, President and CEO of Citizens Business Bank, is one such individual. A former football star and Harvard graduate, Myers is taking this financial institution through a transition from a community bank to a regional bank, while maintaining its “sense of community” atmosphere.
Myers maintains that customer service is essential to building the brand and staying at the forefront of a successful operation. His philosophy as a leader is to motivate people and build an institution that has the financial capabilities of big banks but provides fine banking services to small and mid-sized businesses. “When building the brand, it is important to cultivate personal relationships and provide exceptional customer service in an approachable manner,” says Myers.
A consummate professional with a passion for finishing first, he has dedicated himself to “putting people in a position to win.” Placing people first — and nurturing the right relationships — is indispensable to the success of the team. This hands-on CEO knows most of the bank’s 800 employees by name. If service is a core value for the Citizens Brand, so is camaraderie and enjoying what they do. From barbeques to sales rallys to weekend getaways for top performers, Myers wants to keep his employees engaged. “If morale is down, it’s our job to pick our people up. We are in the people business. Show appreciation to your team, and they’re going to not only do a better job, they’ll love doing it.”
Citizens Business Bank’s unique and refreshing approach to doing business built around relationships with people and quality customer service is apparent from the first phone call. No matter who contacts the bank, whether it is a CEO or someone from down the street, each is treated with the same personalized attention. “Customers don’t want to call five different people or an 800 number. They want someone who serves as their advocate and provides personalized attention. We make sure they have just that with every touch point during their interaction with the bank.”
Each bank employee is put through intensive training in customer service, sales and technology. They are trained to greet customers by name and resolve customers’ problems, rather than pass the problem along. “These are the niceties from 40 years ago that have become a mainstay in how we do business,” says Myers.
Clients are typically small- or medium-sized, privately-owned businesses and come from multiple industries. While Citizens Business Bank services small businesses, they offer all the amenities and products of a large bank, including wealth management services, investment services, international banking capabilities, equipment leasing and others. According to Myers, “these types of products and services are very difficult for a small bank to deliver, but that’s where we step up.” It is this can-do type of attitude that is making Citizens Business Bank a first-class institution.
Citizens Business Bank makes it a priority to support associates in their efforts to help improve the lives of friends and neighbors. As proof of the bank’s community commitment, associates donate thousands of hours of community service each year. Their time and talent is supported with more than $1 million in corporate contributions.
Associates also participate in service organizations such as the Rotary Club and Kiwanis. They chair and serve on committees for the Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations. Citizens Business Bank is proud to support the United Way through associate contributions. They also work with the San Antonio Hospital Foundation, Children’s Fund, The Pasadena Community Foundation, vendors participate and contribute to the success of this event.
Other inroads to building the brand and helping generate revenue for the community at large came with the opening of the Citizens Business Bank Arena in 2008. This state-of-the-art facility is a perfect venue for indoor events, including basketball, ice hockey, ice shows, boxing and concerts. The arena has a capacity upwards of 11,000 people. It is the biggest and most modern arena within the Inland Empire region of California.
Myers is hugely optimistic about the bank’s future and growing the brand. With sights set on opening branches throughout California, he believes that they are in “a really good position” to accomplish just that.
While Myers may have followed Community commitment is a civic responsibility Myers believes, and Citizens Business Bank provides tremendous support to their communities where their associates and customers live and work. There is a longstanding tradition of active involvement supporting a variety of local civic and community organizations. Girl Scouts, Chaffey College Foundation, Mt. San Antonio College Foundation, and many additional worthwhile organizations.
Each year Citizens Business Bank also sponsors their own Annual Charity Golf Classic in Orange County, benefiting selected Orange County charities. Many of their customers, associates and an unconventional path to corporate success, he has parlayed his knowledge and business acumen into making the bank, the employees and himself the best they can possible be. It’s easy to understand why he was named one of the Top 10 CEOs by US Banker.