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Executive Profile: Thomas King

After working for a single employer for 23 years, Thomas King faced being forced from his job when Bank of America acquired Los Angeles-based Security Pacific National Bank in 1992.

With loads of banking experience, King had three new offers, two at larger banks and one heading up a small community bank in Sacramento. Despite anxieties of shifting to community banking, King decided on the bigger challenge and changed his life.

After turning things around at CapitolBank Sacramento, he went on to do much the same thing at the Bank of Southern California in San Diego, Fullerton Savings and Loan, and most recently at San Diego Community Bank, formerly called First International Bank. Last year, the bank attracted $6.5 million in new capital, allowing it to grow to about $76 million in assets, an increase of 43 percent.

King says moving from being a division manager at a large regional bank to the chief executive officer of a community bank wasn’t easy, but turned out to be the smartest thing he’s done in his career.

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“If Security Pacific hadn’t got into trouble and wasn’t sold, I’d probably still be there today,” he said. “But I would never be able to have the same freedom and to implement my ideas the way I have over the last 13 years if I stayed with a major bank.”

His track record with turning around financial institutions led King this year to offer his expertise to the city of San Diego’s deeply troubled employee pension fund. Yet after four months on the pension board, King resigned in July.

“Every single meeting I went to in four months, (City Attorney Michael) Aguirre would threaten us,” King said. “He filed a lawsuit against the board, and against individual board members personally, and he advised us we would be liable for our own legal fees. Then he threatened to file a criminal lawsuit against us. That was the last straw.”


RESUME

Name: Thomas King.

Title: President and chief executive officer, San Diego Community Bank.

Birthplace: Beckley, W.Va.

Education: Bachelor of Science, business administration, Cal State Northridge.

Age: 61.

Residence: Scripps Ranch.

Family: Wife, Marla, who also works in banking; three grown sons and a daughter; one grandchild.


BUSINESS PHILOSOPHY

Essential business philosophy: Understand your business, maintain personal integrity, set your expectations high, and treat your employees fairly.

Best way to keep a competitive edge: Provide your customers with competitive products through well-trained employees. Always think of ways of making the business more effective and efficient, and be prepared to make changes quickly.

Yardstick for success: Fundamentally, it’s results. If the results aren’t there, it’s always disappointing. The mark of a good manager, whether it’s in life or in business, is to set objectives and to do whatever it takes to meet them.

Goals yet to be achieved: Establish San Diego Community Bank as the top business-oriented small community bank in San Diego.


JUDGMENT CALLS

Best business decision: When leaving Security Pacific National, I took a job as CEO of a small community bank in Sacramento, which changed my career.

Worst business decision: I make a lot of quick decisions, and when you do that, you make a lot of good decisions, but you’re also bound to make some bad decisions. No one decision stands out as the worst.

Toughest business decision: Getting into community banking. Even after I made the decision to take the job in Sacramento, I really struggled with it. It all became clear to me when I asked a friend about whether he thought he could ever go back to a major bank. He said, “Why would you want to?”

Biggest missed opportunity: There were several jobs I didn’t get, including one where I was a finalist for a substantial bank in Northern California.

Mentor: Jack Beaird, a division administrator I worked with for eight years who recently passed away.

Word that describes you: Driven.


TRUE CONFESSIONS

What you like best about your job: Being able to see over time the results of decisions that I’ve made take hold and transform this bank into one of the strongest capitalized banks in the region.

What you like least about your job: Difficulty in finding qualified lending officers.

Pet peeves: People taking credit for others’ efforts.

Most important lesson learned: Listen better.

Person you would most like to meet: President George W. Bush.

Three greatest passions: My Christian faith, my family and my career.

First choice for a new career: Some form of Christian ministry work.


PREDILECTIONS

Favorite quote: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Most influential book: The Bible.

Favorite movie: “The Passion of the Christ.”

Favorite restaurant: John Dominis Restaurant in Honolulu.

Favorite place to hold business meetings: My office.

Favorite vacation spot: The Bahamas.

Favorite way to spend time: Playing golf.

My car: 2004 Infiniti G35 Coupe.

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