President and CEO, Bank of the West; Co-CEO, BNP Paribas USA

Nandita Bakhshi has begun to put her stamp on Bank of the West.

Bakhshi, who was hired away from TD Bank in 2016, is a 30-year industry veteran with extensive experience in retail banking and payments.

When she arrived last year at Bank of the West, Bakhshi embarked on a listening tour across the San Francisco-based lender's 23-state footprint. She also launched a virtual office, known as Nandita's Corner, where the bank's 10,000 employees were encouraged to share their ideas.

In addition, Bakhshi has been hosting "Ask Me Anything" sessions to provide candid answers to employees' questions.

One key initiative during her first year as CEO was the launch of Bank of the West's new logo. The logo prominently features the name of the bank's parent company, the French bank BNP Paribas.

The rebranding amounts to a bet that being associated with a global megabank will enable Bank of the West, which has deep roots in California, to generate more revenue. But during a March 2017 interview, Bakhshi said that the $83.7 billion-asset bank's customers will continue to work with branch managers, and decision-making will remain local.

"We are not going to lose our local flavor," she said.

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Another recent accomplishment was a reduction in the number of days it takes for Bank of the West to close a mortgage.

The bank set out to identify ways to improve the home-buying experience, then developed ways to digitize documentation and keep customers better informed throughout the loan process. In the first few months of the process, Bank of the West says that it has seen a 10% reduction in the average time to close a home loan.

Bakhshi, who began her career as a part-time teller, attributes her success in part to a focus on making good hires. "When you get to the position where you are hiring and training people, don't settle," she said. "Make sure you recruit first-rate talent and it will improve your whole organization."

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Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack

Kevin Wack is a California-based reporter for American Banker who covers the U.S. consumer finance industry.