Hector Gutierrez remembers the many late nights. He began his journey in the financial world as a part-time teller at a drive-through bank window, first splitting his time between his job and night school. Eventually, he earned his bachelor’s degree in finance, real estate, and law and worked his way up the commercial-lending ladder to a manager role, later landing a job as a credit administrator. Even through all of that, he decided to enroll in law school at Southwestern University School of Law in Los Angeles to develop his legal skills and business acumen.
With his days being eaten up by his role as a full-time bank manager, Gutierrez continued in law school four nights a week for four years, sacrificing family time with his two daughters. “Their love and support kept me going even in the most difficult times, when I doubted myself and wondered whether it was really worth it,” Gutierrez explains. “I questioned whether the benefits of completing law school were worth the sacrifices, and, to be frank, whether I could even get through law school—let alone the state bar exam.”
Gutierrez persevered. He remained committed and took each full day at the office, each long ride to and from Los Angeles, and each night of classwork as they came—completing his education, earning his Juris Doctor degree, and passing the state bar.
“It showed me that when I put my mind to something and have a goal worthy of achievement, I can do what I have to do to make it happen,” he says. “Sometimes you know you can do something for a few months, maybe a year. But four years of anything can be challenging. I now know I can handle just about any obstacle.”
Because of his experience and personal belief in the value of education to better himself, Hector often encourages his colleagues to pursue their dreams despite daunting challenges. He wants to remind them that each step forward, however small, is a step closer to their goals.
Now in his eighth year with Citizens Business Bank, Gutierrez serves as executive vice president and deputy chief credit officer for a forty-five-year-old organization that has grown to over $11 billion in assets, three trust offices, and more than fifty locations throughout California. With perseverance and determination, Gutierrez achieved his goals—and now he’s working with his banking team to help small business owners realize theirs.
“At the core of everything we do, what binds us in our purpose is our culture,” Gutierrez notes. “As a high-performance institution, we’re always striving to improve ourselves. We find ways to become more efficient and more effective in our partnerships with clients, while earning their continued business. It’s an ongoing effort that starts at the top and permeates everything we do.”
“Having the patience and perseverance in doing the right thing for the client, rather than the most expedient or routine thing, will often result in a long-lasting relationship.”
In addition to efficacy and efficiency, trust and integrity are keys for Gutierrez and Citizens Business Bank. They’re also major reasons why the tenure of the bank’s associates, as well as retention of its clientele, is so high. Gutierrez says the reason clients maintain longstanding relationships—and often return after trying alternatives—is the confidence they place in the bank’s consultative approach. The bank will seek solutions that are in clients’ best interests, even if the deals are not perceived to be as good as what competitors are offering. This honesty withstands the test of time and provides clients with a reliable, long-term partner.
“There are going to be times when you just can’t provide everything that someone requests because maybe the bank or the particular credit arrangement just isn’t the best fit,” Gutierrez says. “There might be other banks pitching a solution simply to get that business. We would take a different approach and explain why we believe a particular structure may or may not work, and how we believe it to be in the best interest of that client.”
Gutierrez explains that situations will come up in which the bank provides a client with a deal it believes to be more sustainable and better overall for that business. Still, the client might choose to go elsewhere for their banking. “We have to be able to be comfortable with our decisions, and we often find that the clients will come back at some later juncture and say, ‘You guys were right, and I appreciate the fact that you were willing to be honest with me,’” he says.
“We find ourselves gaining a lot of business at later dates because we held to our principles and took a partnership approach to solving issues and meeting the needs of the client. Having the patience and perseverance to do the right thing for the client, rather than the most expedient or routine thing, will often result in a long-lasting relationship.”
It’s just like what Gutierrez learned from his experience juggling work with school—playing the long game pays off. Now he’s not doing it alone. He’s part of a like-minded team that offers the best solutions for its clientele.
“The banking industry is always changing and evolving in so many different ways. We’re constantly testing our knowledge about how things work and how they can work better,” he says. “I try to foster creativity and collaboration with my team to solve different challenges, come up with unique solutions, and see if we can find ways to implement these ideas for the betterment of our clients and the bank. It’s inspiring to see how people grow when you empower them to develop those ideas.”
Gutierrez recognizes now that it’s not only the sacrifices one makes early in a career, but the seeds sown each day that fulfill a sense of purpose. “It’s afforded me the great opportunity to play a role in helping develop our bank associates and support our clients to realize their dreams, which is the ultimate reward.”