Woman Bank President Reaches Out for Growth

Unlike the bank president of yesteryear -- who was usually desk-bound during the bankers' hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. -- Melinda T. Briggs is breaking the mold.

Aside from being one of only nine female presidents among California's 451 banks, she pursues growth for her bank by going outside the office at Rancho Dominguez Bank at least four days out of five.

Rancho Dominguez is only two years old and has $23 million in assets. Since Ms. Briggs took the helm in 1990, it has charted a course of what she called "controlled but steady growth over the next five years that will include a branch bank -- hopefully within the next 18 months."

Considering the |Human Element'

The bank lost money in its first year, 1989, and posted a modest 0.38% return on assets in 1990 on $62 million in operating income.

The community bank's service mix includes small-business owners as well as personal-banking customers. As a woman holding a high-level executive position, Ms. Briggs feels she has a slight edge over her male counterparts.

"Women grow up being nurturers," she explained. "And they tend to take the human element into consideration when making a business decision. That makes for a good relationship with customers: They can feel that we have genuine concern for their needs."

Ms. Briggs, a native of San Bernardino, Calif., is a 21-year veteran of the banking industry. She got an inkling of her career choice during her days an elementary school student -- where she showed early talent in mathematics.

"My first encounter with banking was when the Bank of America gave pouches to schoolchildren to open their own |accounts' in the classroom," she recalled.

"My parents were poor, and they didn't have any dealings with banks. So the classroom was my first exposure to financial planning, at the age of 8. By the time I was 12 years old, I felt that banking was a strong career possibility for me."

Ms. Briggs' first job as a bank teller, in 1969, combined her math skills and her desire to work with the public. Her move up the ladder took her from San Jose to Sacramento to Truckee and, finally, Carson.

Doing What Needed to Be Done

"I knew I had to be as willing to do what was necessary to get ahead as a man would be," she said, "and that meant several reloctions. Fortunately, I had many positive mentors along the way."

High on her priority list as chief executive officer is a concerted effort to give widespread local visibility to Rancho Dominguez among Carson's key business people.

"If everyone prospers, then we prosper, too," Ms. Briggs said. "We're very much a community bank looking to represent the spirit of this community -- and not just our own business interests."

Education for Small-Business Owners

Ms. Briggs sees a pressing need to teach small-business owners how to work with their bankers.

"More often than not, small-business operators don't recognize the need to have a business plan and to keep accurate financial records," she said. "But that's exactly what a bank needs in order to lend the money necessary for that company to grow."

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.