My first job after graduating from college with an undergraduate degree in business was with a large, multi-branch retail banking company. I joined their management training program and worked and learned in branches in Sunnyvale, San Jose, Palo Alto, and the San Francisco Main Office for two years. I was then assigned as a lending officer in Redwood City followed by stints in Burlingame, Almaden, Millbrae and San Francisco as I rose to Assistant Manager. Eventually, I was appointed Manager of the Fremont Branch in the San Francisco East Bay. I was delighted because I already owned a home with my wife and two daughters in the town next door. Short commute, new challenge, a chance to really become a part of the community…all good stuff. I worked there for the next fifteen years and earned the title of Vice President of the bank. Sounds impressive until you know that large branch banks had many Vice Presidents.
As a banker, I made loans including business, personal and mortgage loans. I sold bank products...both loan products and savings/investment products. I learned to make phone calls to sell bank products. I went out and knocked on doors to solicit business. The community was my "farm" although I did not know the significance of that term. I was and still am a member of the Chamber of Commerce including serving on committees, the board of directors and a term as president. I joined a local service organization. In other words, I learned to meet people and build my SOI although I did not know it at the time.
The image is of the bank of the bank where I worked. No sign is shown to identify the bank because the name is irrelevant to the story.
In the mid-1990’s the banking world was turned on its head. Rising costs of funds for the banks, bad loans and other forces led to many banks falling on hard times and a survival of the fittest environment. Many banks were taken over by the FDIC which is the Federal agency that insures bank deposits. The FDIC then liquidated those banks or arranged to merge them with other, stronger banks.
At the same time, the Savings and Loan Industry was in deep trouble. That industry had concentrated on making long-term, fixed rate mortgages supported by savings deposits which were historically stable. They kept and serviced their loans. Mortgage securitization had not yet been invented. Interest rates on deposits and on borrowings from the Federal Government soared well above the income generated by fixed rate loans. The industry tried to earn itself out of trouble by making riskier loans and that strategy backfired . There was a Federal agency that insured their deposits also. It, the FSLIC, ran into financial problems, itself. The Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) was created to try to sort out the problems.
The reasons are more complex than I have stated and evolved over several decades but the bottom line is that the S&L industry disappeared and so did many banks. Call them failures. Call them mergers. Call them acquisitions. They went the way of the dinosaurs.
Not all banks failed. Some prospered and grew. My bank was doing well. And yet, in 1996, the bank for which I worked was targeted for a hostile takeover by another bank. We lost!
A major part of what makes the take-over of one bank by another a financially good strategy is the ability of the prevailing bank to reduce expenses by cutting employees and closing bank branches while retaining most of the customers.
Once the takeover had been decided, there was a period of review by the prevailing bank as to which branches would be closed and who would be laid off. One of my bank clients who was a real estate broker suggested that, if I should get laid off, I ought to consider becoming a Realtor.
So…I got laid off. As a Vice-President with twenty-five years of service, I got a decent separation package. After a period of time in which I gave great consideration as to what to do about choosing my next job…find a new bank job…or…what, I called the broker, met with him and here I am twenty-three years later.
I know that my being laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me. Sure, I was happy with my job at the bank. I was also stale. I actually tendered my resignation at one point in order to move to another bank but was induced to stay by a promotion and salary increase. Yet, I wondered from time to time if there was not some other area in which I could apply my talent. Was I good for anything else?
The lay-off and subsequent career change provided my answer.
I am delighted to be here.