Head of Commercial Banking, MUFG Union Bank

Chemistry is important to Bita Ardalan, who has been managing teams for the bulk of her 31-year career at MUFG Union Bank.

She acknowledges that, earlier in her career, she was at times too focused on her own performance to think about how her teams jelled or how her staff perceived her. Ardalan said that if she knew then what she knows now about how to build more cohesive teams, she might have delivered better results and, importantly, found more job satisfaction.

“While individual contributions are critical, it is also vital to build supportive relationships that will shape us, challenge our thinking, sustain us through tough patches and ultimately help us achieve our organization’s goals,” she said. “I encourage all those who are just starting their careers to think deeply about these issues as they will improve your balance and help you gain a deeper understanding of your work environment. And, hopefully, enjoy it more.”

Whatever faults she felt she had in those early years, Ardalan has clearly overcome them. She has been promoted four times over the past five years, most recently in 2015 when she was named head of commercial banking for the San Francisco-based MUFG Union, a newly created role in which she oversees all business lending for companies with revenues between $10 million to $1 billion.

The group last year achieved double-digit growth deposits, core earnings and fee income as Ardalan and her team continued to pursue opportunities in a wide array of business sectors, including health care and technology, agriculture, nonprofits and professional services. Improvements in efficiency and increased collaboration between the commercial banking and wealth management units also contributed to the earnings growth.

In her role as head of commercial banking, Ardalan serves on the executive committee for MUFG Union’s regional bank, is a voting member of the bank’s deal screening committee and is the bank’s primary liaison to the transaction banking group.

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Though her responsibilities have increased substantially in recent years, Ardalan continues to carve out time to mentor others in the organization, particularly women and minorities. Ardalan is also a passionate advocate for more diversity in the leadership ranks, and though she is seeing progress in that area she worries it’s not happening fast enough.

“We cannot bring forth positive change without engaging the men we work with and demonstrating that having a diverse workforce that mirrors our client base is good for business and our society,” she said.

Alan Kline

Alan Kline

Alan Kline is a senior editor at American Banker overseeing its consumer finance and national/regional banking coverage. He also helps direct coverage of the annual Most Powerful Women in Banking rankings.