Monday, May 21 , 2018, 1:30 pm | Partly Cloudy 66º


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.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Supporter

Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >