Saturday , February 24 2024

Christopher Myers is stepping down as the head of CVB Financial Corp.

Myers, who has run the Ontario-based financial institution for 13 years, is going out on top, with a glimmering record and several major accomplishments to his credit. He says it’s time to let someone else have the job, so he will retire next spring.

By any standard, Christopher Myers has put together an impressive resume as head of CVB Financial Corp. in Ontario, the holding company of Citizens Business Bank.

Since Myers took over as the company’s chief executive in 2006, CVB Financial’s deposits have more than tripled, while its total deposits and loans have risen more than 250 percent, according to a statement.

Shareholder equity has gone from roughly $350 million in 2006 to nearly $2 billion today, and quarterly earnings per share have grown from 21 cents to 37 cents per quarter. Also, the value of the company’s stock -which fell to less than $600 million during the recession – is now nearly $3 billion.

Perhaps most impressive of all, CVB Financial has had 169 consecutive quarters of profitability and 119 consecutive quarters of paying dividends to its shareholders, with no end to either run in sight.

Myers, who got his undergraduate degree at Harvard and his MBA at UCLA, is only 57 years old. One would expect the La Canada Flintridge native to spend the next few years overseeing the company he has built into one of the best banks in California, according to Forbes’ 2019 ranking of the top banks in the United States.

But that’s not the case.

Last month, Myers announced that he is retiring as CVB Financial’s president and chief executive officer, effective March 15 of next year.

“I believe this is the right time for me to step down,” said Myers, who began his banking career at First Interstate Bank in 1984. “I’ve done everything I set out to do here, and there are other things I want to do. I want to play more golf, I want to get back in shape and I want to travel. I already have a couple of trips lined up.”

Myers, who followed D. Linn Wiley, has agreed to consult through the end of 2020 to help assure a smooth transition. After that, his banking career will be officially over. 

In the retirement announcement, Raymond O’Brien III, CVB Financial’s board chairman, called Myers’s job performance “unparalleled,” and stated the company plans no changes to the business-financial model Myers has established, at least for now.

In a recent interview at Citizens Business Bank’s Ontario headquarters, Myers discussed his accomplishments and regrets, the state of the Inland Empire economy and why it’s important for the Inland region to have its own business bank.

Q: Considering how successful you’ve been, and how well things are going, it’s difficult to understand your stepping down now. Isn’t your timing a little off?

A: No, this is the perfect time to retire. I really want to wake up next March 16 and have no responsibilities, absolutely nothing I have to worry about. Thirteen years is a long time to be the chief executive officer of one company, and it’s a high-pressure job. It’s also not a 40-hour-a-week job. It’s time to let someone else have a chance at it.

Q:  So it was not a difficult decision?

A: It was certainly a big decision. I talked about it with my wife, and she didn’t disagree.

Q: Will you have any say in who follows you?

A: No, that decision is entirely up to our board of directors. They’re going to do a nationwide search, which they’ve already started.

Q: What are you most proud of?

A: Probably getting to $10 billion in assets. That’s a benchmark in the banking industry, and we reached that when I was in charge, and I’m proud of that. Now $10 billion in assets also means more [government] oversight and regulation, but it’s still important for a bank to get there. 

A: Any regrets? Anything that you wanted to have happen that didn’t happen?

Q: Yes, not operating all over California. We’ve had some mergers, and we set up an office in Stockton last year. Our goal has always been to go statewide, and then get into the western United States, but that hasn’t happened. We’re only into the Central Valley. The recession slowed us down.

Q: CVB Financial Corp. has turned a profit in each of the last 169 quarters, and it’s paid a dividend to its shareholders in each of the last 119 quarters. How long do think those streaks can last?

A: I don’t see any reason for them to end. I really don’t. Those numbers will be 171 quarters of profitability and 121 quarters of paid dividends when I leave, and they will keep going from there. I will be very disappointed if either of those streaks ends.

Q: How important is it for the Inland Empire have its own bank?

A: I think it’s very important. We’re a business bank. Our job is to help small to medium-sized businesses expand or get started, so that makes us an important part of the local economy. We help people get their dreams off the ground, and it’s not easy. There have been five other business banks in this market since we started [as Chino Valley Bank] in 1974. We’re the only one still in business.

Q: How important were the mergers?

A: They’re important because they’re one of the ways we’ve been able to expand. We also wouldn’t have gotten to $10 billion in assets without them. I consider the merger with Community Bank in Pasadena [completed one year ago] our crowning achievement.

Q: What is your assessment of the economy? Are the rumors of a possible recession true?

A: I’ll admit that when I hear the talk about China and tariffs and trade wars I get nervous. But when I talk to different business owners, 80 percent of them say they’re doing as good or better than they were 12 months ago. So if there’s a recession coming on, I’m not seeing it.

Q: As you prepare to step down, what are your thoughts regarding the Inland business community? Is it in good shape?

A: I’ve never seen our businesses run better or more efficiently than they’re running now, and I think the recession had something to do with that. I think business owners had to try new things and they found better ways to operate.

Q: You’re only 57 years old. Would you ever consider getting back into banking?

A: I truly intend to retire. If I do get back into banking it means I was unsuccessful in retirement.

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