Written by The Business Journal Staff
Steve Miller, President and CEO
Fresno First Bank
What we do: Fresno First Bank is dedicated to meeting the banking needs of businesses, professionals, and successful individuals in Central California.
Education: BA in History, Columbia University
Family: Married with 3 kids (2 boys and a girl) and one on the way
What convinced you to go for this position with Fresno First Bank, Steve?
The bank has a strong team of people who are all owners of the bank themselves through our Employee Stock Ownership Program. I was really impressed with the ownership culture and the long-term potential. In addition, we are a very focused bank on a segment that I enjoy — small business. The board is keen to grow organically and is open to new ideas. Finally, our location in the center of this amazing Valley offers us unlimited opportunities to grow.
What do you think of Fresno so far, Steve?
My family and I are really enjoying Fresno so far. We have three young kids and this area is such a great place to raise your family. The value system that supports the community here is quite special and fits in well with how we were raised and how we want to raise our own children.
Many people think Fresno is in the “middle of nowhere”, but we like to think it is in the “middle of everywhere.” We have already been to Yosemite, Grants Grove and Shaver Lake since coming in October last year. Our kids were born in Malaysia so this was their first true snow experience which was quite fun to watch as a parent. After living in a constant 90 degrees and 100-percent humidity in Southeast Asia, I am very happy to be enjoying some real seasons for a change.
What drew you to Asia, and what did you think of your time there, Steve?
I had worked for the same bank for 12 years out of college and a large bank purchased them. I qualified for a nice severance package which I chose to take rather than stay with the company. Asia was supposed to be a nice resume builder for 18 months and then return to the states, but that turned into nine amazing years in three different countries. My work focus was on the small business side of banking. As in most countries this is a very “local or community” style of banking, which enabled my family and I to become very “localized” quickly. The people and the cultural experiences were immensely unique and we will cherish it forever. Everyone always asks what was our favorite country between Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia? They were all amazing, but all three of our children were born in Malaysia and we spent the longest time there so it will always be a special place for us.
How has the banking industry evolved during your career, Steve?
Like most industries, banking is always evolving. At its core banks are still intermediaries for the transfer of money, but how we do it and the expectations of the customer are always changing. The two major changes have come from new regulations and new technology, but this is not anything new so we have to adapt and see how we can take advantage of gaps in the market. As a small bank, we are supposed to have the advantage of being nimble and creative. So we must be courageous and use this advantage better than our competition.
What are your goals with Fresno First Bank, Steve?
The bank was recently recognized by Forbes as one of the best 25 small businesses in the US, so that is a pretty good way to start out the year.
We are currently in the process of developing a 3year strategic plan for the bank and we will be finishing in April. In a nutshell, we will still plan on being a community bank focused on meeting the needs of the small business segment and the owners of these small businesses. We aim to be in the Top 1% of all community banks in the US in regards to financial performance and customer service.
What was your very first job and what did you learn from it, Steve?
I spent my teenage years working with my stepdad in his commercial plumbing construction company. The construction job site is full of many colorful learning opportunities for a young person. I learned how to fight, to gamble, to respect people from different cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and most importantly, how to work with your hands in the heat all day long for minimum wage. It molded my character, my work ethic, my street smarts and gave me tremendous perspective.
What was the best advice you ever received, Steve?
1. Someone once told me that the next best thing to being No. 1 on someone’s list for the next job opportunity is to be the first person to say “yes” when they get the call to go.
2. A great quote told to me as a young professional — “Winners (successful people) are those people who will do what unsuccessful people will not do.” It is really that simple sometimes.
What do you like to do in your spare time, Steve?
• Well with 3 children they tend to be my 2nd job and hobby altogether
• Try to exercise and stay in shape…I enjoy road bicycling
• International travel
• My wife and I enjoy cooking …and eating.
• My nerd side is that I like to read pretty much everything — novels, current events etc.