The Business of Banking | Steve Tessler

 

About Steve Tessler

Stephen Tessler, a resident of Oakland; has served as an Executive Vice President and Director of Sales of the Bank since 2007. Previously, Mr. Tessler served as a Manager of Business Development and Marketing for Diablo Valley Bank. Mr. Tessler has a degree from San Jose State & Golden Gate University. He has worked in financial management and commercial banking since 1994.

 

Interview Transcript:

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Steve Tessler. He’s the Executive Vice President of California big commerce. Steve, welcome to today’s show.

Steve
Oh, thanks for having me here. Good to see you.

Alan
So Steve, for the listeners, we’ve known each other for a while. And but but can you give us your background and what led you up to where you’re at today?

Steve
Sure. I like you started in the public accounting profession many, many, many years ago, I hate to say how long it’s been because it’s it’s been decades. But started as it was interesting. Before I got into public accounting, I had a desire and passion to be a professional racquetball player. And so for I was pursuing a career, if you will, as a professional athlete. Although I never, I never was that good. It was more more and more a figment of my imagination than then true reality. But I thought it’s something I would pursue. And so I was members of an athletic club in San Francisco, which is where I grew up. And at once I realized that the opportunity to pursue my dream probably wasn’t going to be a reality, because I just wasn’t as good as I, as the rest of the country was, I happen to know a gentleman at the club who was a certified public accountant. And I had gotten a degree in accounting in college. And I was started speaking to him about opportunities in public accounting. And so he was kind enough to take me aside and go through the telephone directory when there were still the Yellow Pages, and kind of led me through the accounting firms that he thought I should approach about becoming a tax intern. And so he was very kind and said, I wouldn’t talk to them I would talk to this firm, I would talk to this firm. And lo and behold, following his advice, I ended up securing a tax internship position with a large CPA firm, the largest actually, at the time on the western United States was called Gianna Forbes and company which is no longer in existence, it actually merged it into main Hurdman, which merged into P Mar, which which we, which became KPMG. So that’s I started my career in public accounting, thanks to Jim, and was in it for about seven years. And it was a great opportunity to to really learn about business, and to understand businesses, many different industries. And it led me to a realization that there was an underserved segment of the business population, and that was primarily small to medium sized businesses. And I eventually migrated my public accounting career into a firm collab unfallen, Horvath, which had a small business advisory group, and I really enjoyed, enjoy the enjoy that element of it, enjoy dealing with privately family and closely held entrepreneur, businesses and the entrepreneurs behind those businesses. And it was an opportunity to really understand and really develop relationships with individuals because, um, my career has always been focused on developing relationships. And I feel like developing relationships is really the essence of business, until you become very, very, very large, when you feel more like a vendor than, than then then something else. But a lot of the individuals and a lot of companies that we deal with, and I’ve dealt with in the past, I’ve always valued that relationship aspect of business. And so when I was in public accounting, I interfaced with many, many bankers. Because for a lot of the companies that we had as clients, their primary capital source was the bank. And there was always a bit of a chicken and egg relationship between the public accounting firm and the bank and that for the bank to renew a company’s revolving line of credit, but it was often predicated on the public accounting firm, issuing the financial statements and the public accounting firm, when necessary, use the fancy name until they knew that the bank was going to renew the line of credit. So I got to know many, many bankers over over over my years in public accounting. And I’d reached a point in my career in public accounting is trying to sort of a crossroads and deciding, did I want to continue this down this path? Or was there something else that I felt was better aligned with where my skills and where my passion was? And I was really, very focused on sales and marketing. And so I approached the managing partner of the firm that I was with at the time and sat down with his name was Bob and I sat down with Bob in his office and hit Bob, here’s what I’d really like to do. I appreciate the fact that the firm has using pas as partners as the primary revenue generators for business but I said you know, there could be real value in having someone that’s you truly dedicated to doing it on a full time basis. And he thought about it looked at me and said, Steve, I’m sorry. But this isn’t the way we generate business at the firm. And so it caused me to pause and think about where I was and what I wanted to do. And I really enjoyed meeting people developing relationships. And it paused. It was a, it was a time for pause and reflection. And I had an opportunity, I thought, to leverage that skill. And so I started talking to some of my colleagues in banking, who I’d interfaced with over the years. And I was interested in learning something, some new skills and acquiring some new skill set, but that leverage my existing skill set from public accounting, and also leverage the business development marketing skill set. And so I decided that I would leave public accounting after about seven years, and I convinced someone at Wells Fargo Bank to hire me. And I had the reason one of the reasons I approached Wells Fargo was because they have a very forward looking sales culture for banks, and for bank for financial services in general. And so I convinced an individual to give me a job at the main office of the CEO of Wells Fargo in San Francisco, which is where I’m from, and and was living at the time, and I was diligent worked hard. I had a lot to learn. I, I knew a lot about, you know, I knew a lot about financial statements and understanding finance names, but I didn’t know what about banking. And so they were kind enough to put me through a training program. And after a year or so at the bank in their business bank, I was approached by one of the members of the sales team at Wells Fargo in their commercial banking group. And they asked me if, if I would be interested in joining their group they said gicc Here at seven o’clock at night, and at six and seven o’clock in the morning, and you might you might you seem to work hard and seem diligent and you seem to be in seem to be effective at what you do. And so that’s really where I wanted to be. Because when I started at Wells Fargo started with smaller businesses and I wanted to get into, I wanted to give to a group that had slightly larger businesses. And so it was, so it was a great opportunity for me to step up. And

Alan
Steve, I need to take a quick break, no problem. But I’m visiting here today with Steve Tesler. He is executive vice president, California Bank of Commerce. And we’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back and visit here today with Steve Tessler. He’s the Executive Vice President of California Bank of Commerce and Steve, in the first segment we talked about, you know, you start your foundation, the career as a CPA. And as people often do they reflect back and say, Is this really what I want to be doing? And so you, after some pondering and thought, moved over into the banking sector now, today, you’re with a different bank? How do you How did you go through the transition of moving out from Wells Fargo to California Bank of Commerce.

Steve
Wells Fargo is a great place to learn, you know, we all need to learn about an industry that we’re not familiar with or professional not familiar with by starting with a larger company and get some great experience. But I reached a point in my evolution where i i enjoyed working with the type of clients that Wells Fargo had, what what I didn’t enjoy as much was just the large company element of it. And and I really wanted to do something that was I felt was more entrepreneurial and more in alignment with the clients that that I had served and the clients I knew. And it so happened that I was working in downtown local for Wells Fargo and about a half a block away was a small regional bank called California Bank of Commerce. And I stopped in there one day to say hello to some people that I know in there and who, who actually can’t hit come from Wells Fargo because California bank of Congress had had stumbled a bit in the early 90s and was in the midst of a turnaround. And so part of that turnaround involves bringing in some new management and that new management was to senior executives from Wells Fargo. So I stopped in one day was only half a block away just to see what was happening at California Bank of Commerce. And that led us to a series of discussions with Herb and John and we ended up striking a deal they were kind enough to make me an offer to to help them grow the bank. They had laid the foundation for growth and wanted to augment that by hiring Some key people helped propel the growth. And that was an opportunity I thought about for 24 hours. And especially given the fact they, they offered me a small equity position in the bank. And so I spoke with my wife about it. And I said, this is going to be ultimately a lot more fun than what I’m currently doing. Not that I didn’t enjoy what I was doing. But I think this is gonna be even more fun, a little riskier, but more fun. So I decided that in early 95, to join California Bank of Commerce, and California Bank of Commerce was a great platform for me and, and a bunch of other individuals who we all we all met at California Bank of Commerce, I mean, at Civic Bank of Commerce, and it was a great place to launch from and civic bank, we ultimately grew civic bank, we doubled the size of the bank in about seven years and sold the bank in March of 2002, to City National Bank out of Southern California. So it was a good event it was it allowed the bank to to move to its next next iteration, if you will, unfortunately, it didn’t work out as well as some of us had hoped. So it was an opportunity to move on from there. After about a year and a half with the City National and i i happen to join a bank in Danville called Diablo Valley Bank, which had started up recently. I don’t know if you know this, but there weren’t a lot of bank formations between the period of I just looked up some statistics between to 1990 and 2008, there were over 2000 New banks formed was about 100 a year, from 2009 to 2013, only seven new banks formed in the entire United States. And that’s due to a number of reasons low interest rates, the the economic crisis, Dodd Frank regulation, there was a bunch of things that happen but there are only seven new banks formed. And I happen to be part of one of them, which was the Diablo Valley Bank. So Diablo Valley Bank was honestly it was a grow it and sell it strategy by the two founders. And the Ally Bank sold in June of 2007. To heritage Bank of Commerce, which is a local bank in San Jose. So during that time, I had an opportunity to to follow the progression of California Bank of Commerce very similar to civic Bank of Commerce. And it turns out that a number of former civic colleagues were apart, or were thinking about becoming part of California Bank of Commerce. So as I’m sure you know, Alan, you know, who you work with makes all the difference in the world, and you have to enjoy who you work with. And a number of us had a great experience at Civic bank, and an opera and the opportunity to recreate civic bank, in California Bank of Commerce was appealing and attractive. And the timing of the sale of Diablo Valley Bank to heritage bank was a good one because civic bank or California Bank of Commerce opened for business in July of 2007. And the Valley Bank completed its sale in June of 2007. So the thought of if you will get in the old bank and get in the old band back together again was a very compelling one and a very attractive one. And that’s what happened. So Civic, so California Bank of Commerce was formed with pods of two people pod from civic Bank of Commerce and A pod from mechanics bank. And so it was a civic bank pod that I was the most familiar with and which was most attractive to me. And so that’s how we that’s how I ended up at California Bank of Commerce today. And we’re when we’re now 10 years, we had California Bank of Commerce at Its 10th birthday July 17 2017. Just a couple of weeks ago.

Alan
You know, Steve, I need I’m up against the break again, I’m visiting here today with Steve Tessler. He’s the executive vice president, California bank, ecommerce. And after we get back on one, want to walk through what happened when the tarp came in 2008 We’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back I’m visiting here today with Steve Tessler. He’s the Executive Vice President of California Bank of Commerce and and Steve in the previous segment, you’re talking about how California Bank of Commerce launched in July of 2007. Well, a year later that everything got turned upside down in this industry. And here you were news. A new startup trying to get your ground in a settled in and how did you guys manage that?

Steve
It’s interesting because we get asked this question a lot. Had we tried to raise capital for the bank six months later It probably wouldn’t have happened. So it was fortunate that we raised our capital in May of 2007, and launched the bank in July. And one of the benefits that we had, there were several benefits that we that we were able to capitalize on. The first one was that we started with an empty balance sheet, we didn’t have any assets when we launched the bank. So it wasn’t as though we had a portfolio of loans or relationships that we had originated three to five years later that now all of a sudden, because of the economic situation, we’re going to all of a sudden, have problems. So we didn’t have to worry about that. Second is the strategy we were it’s very, we are 100% Business Bank. Two of the sectors that were probably most adversely affected during the the the economic crisis were residential, real estate, builders and developers. I mean, certainly business as a general what was in fact, business in general was, was impacted. But there were certain sectors got impacted much harder than others. We’re not are we’re not a residential real estate lender, we still, even today, we are not, that’s not our focus is commercial banking. So we said, we missed that bullet, we don’t bank many builders and developers. So we missed that bullet, which saved us which helped, which helped keep keep us alive. But more importantly, we had some very deep relationships with previous clients. And we were able to port them over to the to the new bank, we were also able to acquire new clients that were, for lack of a better term were, you know, baby being thrown out with the bathwater, maybe they were their existing bank was experienced as many banks where they were experiencing some challenges. And so in some cases, all of their customers, all their clients felt some pressure from what was happening into the banking sector. And so it was an opportunity for those clients that felt pressure felt like they needed to felt like it was undue, and that they that stress was unnecessary, and that they had an opportunity to move to a new bank like ours. On the one hand, it was we were a young bank, we were a startup, we didn’t make money for the first three years. So we had to convince, you know, clients had to trust us. And so there was there was an element of upselling, if you will, with with some new clients, that this was the right place for them to be everything sounded great. It was the right story. It was the right. Right, focus. Everything was was was perfect for them. Except, you know, you’ve only been around two years. How do I know you’re gonna be here three more years. And so there was an element of there wasn’t there was that element which which we had to overcome, but we were, which were very, I wouldn’t say we’re very persuasive. But we’re very genuine about what we tell people. Now, the offices today does the bank have, say the bank has six offices, in started in Lafayette, expanded to Oakland, and now have offices in addition to those two offices in Fremont, San Jose and Walnut Creek, we actually have two offices in San Jose.

Alan
As executive vice president, what is your day to day responsibilities within the bank?

Steve
Oh, it varies. But a lot of it is focused on developing strategies for the growth of the bank, but also executing those strategies and looking for new opportunities with clients in our target industries, and our target markets. So I spend a lot of time trying to develop new relationships for the bank, but also working with some existing relationships or existing relationship managers to cultivate those because as I think, you know, the best source of businesses refer are referrals from your existing clients. So we have to make sure that we nurture those relationships to the best extent that we can, but it’s also looking at new opportunities, new markets, new clients, niches, specialties, opportunities to demonstrate how we’re different and not just a vanilla commercial bank.

Alan
In that, how would you differentiate yourself from the competition?

Steve
You know, California Bank of Commerce is is really predicated on relationships. And now that’s tends to be an overused term in banking. And I wish it wasn’t I wish they had lost some of its luster, but I think it to a certain extent it has, but we really spend time getting to know our clients because we know that business is cyclical, it does not always go up and it does not go straight down. But it goes in cycles. And what we found is that there are a lot of people who your friends when business is going well. Question is who are your friends when business isn’t going so well? And so, so if you have a deeper understanding of what your clients, what their what their business is about, and what their strengths and weaknesses are, you can be a better advocate for them. You can be better and more supportive of them during periods of cyclical downtime or during periods of during a slow time, or when some unforeseen event happens. And you’re not caught by surprise. And that’s one thing that this bank does extremely well, is that because we know our clients, well, we can ride through challenging difficult times with them. And we’ve we’ve have demonstrated examples of that over and over again to being able to do that. That is one of the key differences between California bank of Congress and a lot of other banks and, and the other, the other key differences, just the execution factor, we can get things done quickly.

Alan
And Steve, we’re out of time today. But I really appreciate having you on this show. I’ve been visiting with Steve Tesler. He’s Executive Vice President of California Bank of Commerce and quickly for the listeners. If someone wanted to reach out to you how would they go about contacting you?

Steve
Now they can even reach me at area code 510-499-9509 And or by email at s Tesslar at Bank cdc.com or through our website, which is California Bank of commerce.com.

Alan
Thanks for being on today’s show.

Steve
Alan. Thanks for having me.

 

 

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This transcript was generated by software and may not accurately reflect exactly what was said.

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Alan L. Olsen, CPA, Wikipedia Bio

 

 

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Steve Tessler on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Steve Tessler

Stephen Tessler, a resident of Oakland; has served as an Executive Vice President and Director of Sales of the Bank since 2007. Previously, Mr. Tessler served as a Manager of Business Development and Marketing for Diablo Valley Bank. Mr. Tessler has a degree from San Jose State & Golden Gate University. He has worked in financial management and commercial banking since 1994.

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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