Bank CEO: Pay attention to the details

James York is CEO/President of Valley Bank of Nevada and a UNLV alumnus and supporter.

In 2003, James York began the process of opening Valley Bank of Nevada. It took almost two years to open, but within three years, had grown to a $100 million operation. Then the Great Recession hit, devastating community banking nationally but particularly in Nevada. As president and CEO, York oversaw the process of returning the bank to full financial health. “The experiences that we have had over the past several years have changed us forever and have made us better long-term managers than we ever could have become without having had these trials,” York said.

Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?

2015 was a big year for our bank. We are celebrating our 10-year anniversary, which is no small feat after the Great Recession. We also opened a loan-production office in Henderson with plans to convert it into a full branch. It was made possible by a group of Henderson business leaders and investors. We formed a Henderson Advisory Board out of this group, which we call Team Henderson. They are opening all of the right doors for us and will be the key to our success in Henderson.

What is the best business advice you’ve received, and whom did it come from?

I have received valuable advice from many mentors over the years. One of the best pieces of advice came from a former banker, John Gaynor. When I was writing the charter application for the bank in 2003, John told me not to hire a lawyer or professional to complete the application but to do it myself. Besides saving the money that it would have cost to pay a consultant, it forced me to go through every aspect of the business plan myself, including forecasting the balance sheet and income statements, interest rates, investments and loans and deposits. It also included defining what operating systems, vendors and policies and procedures we would employ. That gave me an in-depth understanding of how the bank was going to operate and make a profit.

How did the recession affect community banking?

Community banks were affected the most because they had loan portfolios of commercial real estate and development properties that had a drop in value of 50 to 80 percent, depending on the property type. Community banks were forced to write those loans down to lower collateral values, even though the loans were still paying as agreed. At the same time, community banks did not receive any of the bailout dollars or TARP money that the big banks did. As a result, the number of community banks nationwide has dropped approximately 25 percent since 2008 through bank closures or mergers.

Why did you focus on Henderson for an expansion?

Henderson lost more community bank branches than any other city in Nevada. We counted nine branches that closed for a total of more than $1 billion in assets. All of the loans and deposits were merged into larger banks, and the small businesses were left with very limited community bank options to meet their needs.

How does community banking benefit small-business owners?

Community banks are the primary source of lending for small businesses. They provide the liquidity and capital for small businesses to grow. They are locally owned and operated, and have the ability to make loan decisions based on more than just the latest financial statements. They take the time to get to know business owners and offer financial guidance to help them grow their business.

As the businesses receive capital for growth, the community benefits in three ways: a growing economy, an increase in jobs and an increase in consumer spending. Historically, small businesses are responsible for 80 percent of our nation’s GDP, and community banks provide the fuel for that growth.

If you could change one thing about Southern Nevada, what would it be?

The No. 1 answer here always is, “Diversify the economy.” However, the best way to do that is through improving our workforce through education. Higher education translates to increased household income, which would result in a higher quality of life for our families and our community. Therefore, I would say the education system is the one thing I would change if I could.

What are you reading?

“The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.

What do you do after work?

Spending time with my family and being part of their life experiences takes most of my time. I enjoy golfing and cycling and spending time with friends. I also love Runnin’ Rebel basketball followed by some Luv-it frozen custard.

Describe your management style.

My management style is centered in positive reinforcement and teaching and training. I believe in leading from the front and showing my team how to complete a task rather than telling them how to do it.

My management approach evolved from watching my parents raise 10 kids and run a family business. I also have had some great mentors who I have worked for in the banking industry throughout the years. Finally, I like to read self-improvement books that teach effective leadership.

What is your dream job, outside of your current field?

I am living my dream job, but if I had to pick one outside of banking, it might be a commercial airline pilot because I would be able to travel worldwide and experience different cultures.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be and why?

I have fallen in love with the sunset ocean views and sandy beaches of Maui. It has a nice combination of city life and rural life, which make it relaxing and enjoyable.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

The lack of pride and ownership that some people take in their work. We have become too laissez-faire in our attention to detail. It’s the little things that really make a difference in a person’s work.

What is something people might not know about you?

I trained in karate with my brothers under Chuck Norris, before anybody knew who he was. Self-defense was important growing up with seven brothers and only two sisters to protect me.

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