Plaza Bank in Irvine, Calif., has hired Kathy Gonzales for the newly created role of director of branch banking.

The position is meant to help the $570 million-asset unit of Carpenter Bank Partners expand its branch network more quickly and enhance its small-business offerings across Southern California and Southern Nevada.

Gonzales is in charge of branch "client experience" and of leading initiatives to improve customer service and branch revenue. She began her role in April, initially overseeing the Irvine and Las Vegas branches, as well as five other branches that Plaza's inherited in its recent merger with Bank of Manhattan.

Previously, Gonzales was chief banking officer at $5.6 billion-asset Farmers and Merchants Bank of Long Beach, where she managed retail and sales strategies for 23 bank branches. Her banking career spans 35 years.

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