Sunday, February 25 , 2018, 12:44 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Eloy Ortega Banks On Service to Customers, Community

On and off the job, the CEO of the Bank of Santa Barbara puts his money where his mouth is

Eloy Ortega breaks the stereotype of a banker. His broad smile and easy laugh make you want to know him. During his 19 years in Santa Barbara, Ortega has headed several community banks, including his most recent step into the CEO shoes for the Bank of Santa Barbara, 12 E. Figueroa St.

A New Mexico native, Ortega comes from a long line of accountants and bankers, including his aunt who became one of the first female bank presidents and worked for the U.S. Treasury during President Ronald Reagan’s years in the White House. As a result, Ortega was always interested in banking.

He came to Santa Barbara in 1991 to join City Commerce Bank, where he rose to the ranks of president and CEO. He served in that capacity until City Commerce merged with Mid-State Bank in 1999. He then formed a group of local banking professionals and founded Business First Bank, a highly successful venture that later merged into Heritage Oaks Bank.

Ortega would be the first to tell you why small and medium businesses should partner with a community bank. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach in banking, as each business has unique financial needs.

“We structure deals that serve the individual business, whereas big banks offer rigid options to suit the masses,” he said.

He admits that while he can’t always beat every bank’s daily rate, he can guarantee a high quality of service.

Ortega is part of the community on and off the clock. He has served on the board of trustees for Child Abuse Listening and Mediation, the board of the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College, the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara, the United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County, the Santa Barbara Region Chamber of Commerce, the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, Partners in Education, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and the Santa Barbara Community Youth Performing Arts Center. The list could go on.

Bank employees are expected to participate in a community volunteer position of their choosing, which Ortega believes is a critical component to keeping in touch with the heartbeat of the city.

He said the faces of board members have changed in recent years. “It used to be the same people in all the leadership positions, but I see a transition of power to a younger guard with a strong community commitment,” he said. “It’s encouraging.”

Ortega didn’t miss a beat when asked about his favorite part of the job: the people. An extrovert through and through, he says a good banker has to be both outgoing and creative in order to serve customers well. He quoted management expert Ken Blanchard: “My goal is to make every customer a raving fan.”

As for advice he would give business owners seeking loans, Ortega said, “When you come to see a banker, have a plan and know what you need financially and why. You also need a plan to repay the loan, anticipating the bumps that may arise.”

Ortega works hard, but he also sees family time as a priority in maintaining a balanced life. He fondly recalls his first visit to Santa Barbara, when interviewing for a bank job. He and his wife, who have three children, spent the weekend and fell in love with the city.

“Eating dinner and watching the sunset on Stearns Wharf, we thought, ‘This might just be where we belong,’” he said. “We didn’t know places like this existed in California.”

Noozhawk contributor Jenn Kennedy can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here to see more of her work.

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