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CB&T Banks on Tyler to Help Families, Businesses Grow

FINANCE: CFO Leads Bank’s Increase in Deposits, Loans

Chikako Tyler, who holds a dual role as CFO and executive vice president at California Bank & Trust (CB&T), has been selected as the San Diego Business Journal’s CFO of the Year in the large public company category.
Tyler is responsible for developing and executing the bank’s financial and strategic plan, and her leadership has been a catalyst for continued innovation and success for CB&T.

Chikako Tyler
California Bank & Trust

“Chikako Tyler’s leadership has contributed immensely to the continued growth and innovation at CB&T, focused on helping families and businesses grow and prosper,” said Jathan Segur, CB&T’s executive vice president, who nominated her for this award. “She is a force of influence and is passionate about touching lives and making a positive difference in California.”
Under Tyler’s direction, CB&T has grown in both deposits and in loans, while maintaining prudent practices across management teams, to ensure the fiscal strength of the bank.

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Inspired by Father’s Business Perseverance

Tyler joined CB&T in 2010 as a real estate analyst. Since then, she has taken on roles of increasing responsibility in risk management, finance and credit. In 2018, she rose to her current position and added business line sales responsibility to her scope.

Her contributions have led to continuous acknowledgement for CB&T as an award-winning business bank. Tyler has also received several accolades of her own, including being selected two years in a row as a member of Zions Bancorporation’s top team in the annual Most Powerful Women in Banking issue of American Banker. (CB&T is a subsidiary of Zions.)

In addition, in 2015, Tyler — who holds an international MBA with an emphasis in finance from the University of Amsterdam — was selected from among 14,000 Zions Bancorporation employees to attend the International Women’s Forum Executive Leadership Fellows Program at Harvard.

Her perseverance and hard work were inspired by Tyler’s father, who grew up in Japan in the post-World War II era. When he was in his early 30s, he decided to give up an executive-level position with Datsun to start over in the U.S. Without speaking English, he started his own company.

Tyler also brings the same energy and passion to helping other women in business succeed. She is the founder of CB&T’s Banking on Women Business Resource Group, which she launched in 2016. The program pairs seasoned executives with more junior CB&T employees to help them gain insights and confidence to grow their careers. So far, more than 60 women have received mentoring, and a career boost, from more experienced colleagues.

“Tyler has made a big impact on CB&T, its employees and the community,” Segur said. “She is a natural for 2024 San Diego CFO of the Year.”
The Business Journal caught up with Tyler following her award to learn more about her career as a CFO.

Chikako Tyler is flanked by well-wishers at the CFO of the Year Awards. Photo courtesy of Bob Hoffman Video & Photography

Q: At what stage in your life did you set your sights on the CFO’s office?

A: I honestly did not set my sights on a specific role or office throughout my career. Instead, I focused on keeping myself open to opportunities that would continuously allow me to learn something new and challenge me every day. There have been many forks in the road along my career journey where I had to pick one direction or another. At those times, I made sure I chose a path to work alongside someone I trusted and respected, and who would treat me with the same, and that the opportunity aligned with my desire to continue to grow and learn.

Q: What put you on the path to getting there?

A: Part of the reason I never set my sights on the CFO role is because I never thought that someone who looked like me or had my background could become a CFO. This is the issue with the lack of women and people of color in the C-Suite. We don’t see enough people who look like us, so we assume that those roles are not achievable. But mid-career, I had an opportunity to join a cohort of women through a bank-sponsored educational program called the International Women’s Fellows program, where I met incredible, accomplished women who were driven to become C-Suite executives. I remember the exact moment, at a conference with these women, when I thought, why wouldn’t I set my sights higher? I realized then the importance of surrounding yourself with people who push you to become better and lift you up instead of bringing you down.

Q: Think back over your career. Up to this point, what is the accomplishment you are most proud of?

A: When I look back and look around at our employees, I still see many familiar faces that I either hired or trained throughout the years, who have built amazing careers with our organization. I am most proud that I have been able to impact their lives with careers that are (hopefully) both fulfilling and challenging.

Q: Of all the economics and business issues in the news right now, what are you following with most interest and why? Which one most directly affects your organization?

A: How banking is structured in the U.S. is an interesting and complex issue. Some of the recent bank failures point to a lack of proper oversight and risk mitigation, despite the volumes of exams and regulations that banks must comply with on a regular basis. While some think the easy solution would be to either reduce banking to a federal government operation or consolidate to a handful of “too big to fail” banks, the consequences of either of these options are potentially dire to the future growth of U.S. Options and choices breed competition, innovation and growth because you need to continuously keep up with market dynamics and needs. If you remove competition, like the laws of physics, the inertia leads to stagnation. But as with any democratic society, the critical question is, how do you balance healthy competition with proper risk mitigation and protection of our customers’ livelihoods? It’s a complex issue, but not an impossible one. So I am hopeful that strong, well-managed community and regional banks like California Bank & Trust will prevail because we need to protect our country’s competitive advantages.

Q: How big is your team?

A: I have around 50 employees under my umbrella with a broad range of responsibilities from finance to sales. I am unique in that most CFOs don’t have sales teams reporting to them, but I felt that it was important to have a direct impact on revenue, because growth comes from investing in the company’s revenues, not from solely shrinking its expenses. A strong CFO will focus on doing both, growing revenues while controlling expenses, and quickly execute on investment opportunities that will fuel future growth.

Q: How difficult is it to hire qualified team members in this employment environment?

A: It is challenging to find qualified employees but when I look back over the last 15 years that I have been at this bank, I think I would have made this same statement every year. The employment market impacts hiring to a degree, but good, qualified employees are never easy to find and/or retain. When you do find an employee that has potential, companies must keep focused on keeping that employee engaged, and investing in their opportunities to grow with your company, not out of your company.

Q: What is the next big step your company hopes to take?

A: We hope to continue to accelerate our growth by bringing our banking services into new markets and industries while continuously improving our customer and employees’ experience. California is a big market and is constantly evolving so we expect to continue to evolve, which seems to move at a faster pace than ever.

Q: What challenges do you face getting there?

A: The biggest challenge I think about is how to integrate innovative technology in banking to stay relevant, which is necessary, while maintaining personal connections to both our customers and employees. We are in an era where we have more online meetings than in-person, and send more text messages than make phone calls, by choice. It is easy to reduce banking to a commodity where an online account can be opened in a matter of minutes and transfers can be made in seconds, which allows people to spend more time doing other things that bring them joy. But if you look past the day-to-day chore of banking transactions, your bank should be your opportunity to execute on your dreams. Have you always dreamed of owning a home? Do you want to be our own boss? Do you want to invest in your company to bring it into a new market? These are all areas where your bank should stand alongside you as your financial partner. It’s hard to make a marriage work entirely online. Similarly, we need to find ways to continue to make banking efficient, while continuing to be your financial partner to support you and help execute on your life goals.

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