Christopher Myers thinks often about all he gained from his role on La Cañada High School’s 1979 CIF championship football team, the only squad in the school’s 56-year history to claim a football title.
“We really accomplished something together that we set our minds to and I think a lot of that work ethic you learn from accomplishing something and working really hard, and seeing it pay off, that’s a great life lesson,” said Myers, who was a senior leader on that team, as well as all-CIF first-team defensive back and the Rio Hondo League’s co-Defensive Player of the Year.
“I try to apply that in my banking life — which is not as exciting, but it’s safer.”
Myers is the president and CEO of Citizens Business Bank, which last week announced that it entered into an agreement to buy Pasadena-based Community Bank for approximately $878 million in stock and cash.
The deal is an indicator of the type of perseverance that’s beneficial both in banking and football.
“It certainly has been something that I have been very interested in for the past decade, really,” said Myers, who came aboard at Citizens about 11 years ago, having long ago bid adieu to a football career that also included a starring role on a pair of Ivy League-winning Harvard football teams. “Only recently did we have any real serious discussions over the past few months.”
The deal will make Citizens the eighth-largest independent bank in California, increasing its total assets to more than $12 billion. Myers said he expects regulators to approve the merger sometime in the third quarter, at which point Community Bank will operate as Citizens Business Bank.
Myers grew up in LCF and was familiar with the Community Bank brand, he said.
His wife, Laura Myers (née Friese), graduated from Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in 1982, two years after Christopher graduated from LCHS. They have three children, Chris, Caitlin and Craig, the last of whom also played college football as one of the quarterbacks on UCLA’s roster.
Local connections are important to both banks, and that was key to the deal, Myers said.
“We’re both very similar in terms of our culture,” Myers said. “We’ve both stood the test of time, we’re both community banks. We’ve competed against each other a lot in the marketplace; both of our companies wanted to build long-term relationships with small to medium-sized business in our area, so we’ve seen them in the marketplace a lot, and we’ve admired each other from afar — or not so far.”
The deal will give Community Bank customers an expanded branch and ATM network: Community currently has 16 locations and 430 employees and Citizens has 51 branches and 830 employees.
“We are delighted to be joining forces with an organization that so strongly complements and builds upon Community Bank’s long-standing tradition of customer, employee and community focus,” CEO David Misch said in a statement.
Since it was founded as Chino Valley Bank in 1974, Citizens Bank has grown from serving primarily the Inland Empire to much of Los Angeles and Orange counties. Once the banks have consolidated, Community Bank’s current customers are expected to have access to 58 branches stretching from San Diego to Madera, Myers said.
Myers said that Citizens has been operating four branches on the same street as Community, and though that overlap will be addressed in the merger process, his company is thrilled to be adding Community branches in cities it doesn’t currently operate, including Century City, Commerce, Huntington Beach, Redlands, Santa Clarita and Santa Fe Springs.
“When you do a merger, it’s very important to have a similar culture and background, and what’s interesting about both companies is we both were formed by families, we both have had that private family banking feel for our history,” said Myers, noting that both companies have at least one employee with a 40-year tenure.
“I’m excited about this,” he added. “Our goal is to continue to provide the same great service we’ve always done.”