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Q&A with Bank of America Inland Empire Market President Retiree Al Arguello; A 53 Year-Long Career

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This year marks Al Arguello’s 53 years with Bank of America, and his retirement as Inland Empire president. We sat down with Al to talk about the evolution of the banking industry and the changes he’s seen within the Inland Empire overall.

Q: How has the banking industry changed since you began your career?

I started working for Bank of America right out of high school as a bank teller in 1968, so you can imagine I have seen quite a bit of change in the past 53 years. There were no ATMs, no online banking services, and certainly no smart phones.  The bank was only open from Monday through Thursday, and not even for a full day – we closed at 3 p.m. 

Architectural drawing of Bank America San Bernardino

Everything was done on paper, carbon copies and files. Even deposits from the Inland Empire were sent every evening by courier to a central vault in downtown Los Angeles. And if a branch manager was late getting a deposit to a courier, he or she had to drive to L.A. to make sure it was properly recorded.

On some days, like when Social Security checks arrived, the local bank branch became the social gathering of the week for senior citizens as they waited in line to deposit their checks. I even used to set up 50 or more chairs for seniors on those days. Bank of America has always supported local community businesses, and on some days, we’d even have a local auto dealer bring over a new car to display on the branch lobby floor as an incentive for people to apply for a car loan.

Today, more than 80% of checks are deposited outside the four walls of a bank branch – which tells you a lot about how people have embraced technology for the most common self-service transactions. But bank branches will always play an important role for Bank of America, more commonly serving as destinations for more complex financial needs, loans and planning. 

Q: How has the Inland Empire changed over the past years?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been a resident of the Inland Empire for more than 35 years now and have seen incredible growth. 

The Inland Empire is a large area, and that includes the Coachella Valley. When I started, the Coachella Valley was a tale of two cities – the wealthy areas and the very poor ones.  What was rewarding was to see was the creation of some great nonprofit organizations that supported those less fortunate, and to help direct bank capital and grants to the region serving as a catalyst for economic growth for disadvantaged communities.   

Another major change was the continued expansion of the Ontario airport as a major freight center, and the overall establishment of the Inland Empire as a major logistics center. More than 40 percent of all the imports that come into our local ports make their way to our warehouses. Add tourism, hospitality and leisure to logistics, and Ontario Airport truly fueled the Inland Empire’s economic muscle over the past decades.  

Q: What are some of your proudest accomplishments during your time as a bank president? 

As an immigrant from Nicaragua, and the first to attend college in my family, working at the bank sparked my lifelong passion to help the financial lives of customers in our communities. In my 14 years as Bank of America’s Inland Empire president, I came into the role just before the great Recession and the foreclosure crisis that rocked the nation but certainly the region. As the crisis unfolded, I brought together many of the leaders across the housing industry to identify solutions for families at risk of losing their homes and to establish sustainable ways to maintain homeownership. This was the beginning of the Housing Opportunities Collaborative of the Inland Empire, which supports nonprofit agencies helping distressed families facing foreclosure and so much more today. 

Coming out of the recession, small businesses in the region were also suffering along with new start-ups.  I took the same collaborative approach in creating the Micro Enterprise Collaborative of Inland Southern California, which encourages micro-business development in the region and helps identify resources and access to capital. Today, the Micro Enterprise Collaborative has helped countless local entrepreneurs grow and succeed. 

I also am proud of helping to direct tens of millions of dollars in philanthropic capital to many important organizations across the Inland Empire – from the High Desert to San Bernardino and Riverside, and out to Palm Springs and the rest of the Coachella Valley. The bank has one of the largest corporate philanthropies, and I had the important honor of helping nonprofits address basic needs like food and housing security, jobs and education needs, and even the arts that serve as important economic drivers. The new Cheech Museum for Latin Art in Riverside is estimated to generate over $20 million annually for the region, for example. 

In the end, I hope I’ve made lasting impacts helping to address the region’s challenges to forward economic stability for families, workers, veterans, homeless and distressed communities.

Q: Given your tenure at the bank working closely with the Inland Empire business community, is there any advice you’d give to business owners?

As our local businesses slowly but surely regain their footing after a uniquely challenging year, we’ve seen encouraging signs of progress towards economic recovery with increased confidence from small businesses expecting their revenue to increase over the next 12 months and plans to hire. As business owners navigate the path forward, it’s important to take what we’ve learned from the past year and apply it to the changing future. Small steps such as investing to ensure you attract top talent, evaluating short and long-term goals, and implementing operational shifts such as increasing your digital sales strategy and reevaluating your company’s impact on the community all can help. And, as I have already pointed out, it’s also important to invest in your community to ensure overall strong quality of life.

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

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Banking & Financial Services

Bank of America Private Bank Announces New Inland Desert Market, Names Patricia Chavez as Market Executive

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Reflecting the growing wealth and economic expansion of the Inland Empire, Bank of America Private Bank today announced Patricia Chavez has been named as the Market Executive for the Private Bank’s newly created Inland Desert market. This market will serve Private Bank clients across the Inland Empire from offices in Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Ontario, and Riverside. Chavez will oversee a team of dedicated private client advisors who deliver custom investment management, wealth structuring, estate planning, philanthropy, private business financing, banking, credit and trust service needs to high net worth individuals, families and institutions.

“We believe Patricia’s extensive leadership and experience make her the perfect candidate to lead this market,” said Mark Benson, Private Bank Managing Director/ West Division Executive. “Throughout the Private Bank’s long history, we have helped our clients by providing personalized investment management, credit and banking solutions and as a bridge between generations. Under Patricia’s leadership, the local team will continue to deliver private banking capabilities to help clients create a legacy that gives meaning to their wealth today and in the future.”

Chavez is a third-generation Bank of America employee who began her career as a teller in La Mirada in 1989.  She most recently served as Managing Director and Philanthropic Market Executive for the West and Central North Divisions for Bank of America Private Bank, and prior to that was a Business Banking executive for the Inland Empire for 14 years. She serves on the board of trustees for the Autry Museum of the American West, sits on the College of Business and Public Management Advisory Board of the University of La Verne, and previously served on the boards of Habitat for Humanity Riverside, Foothill Family Shelter Upland and the Inland Empire Economic Partnership.

Chavez earned her M.B.A. with a concentration in Finance from the University of La Verne, her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from California State University Fullerton, and is a graduate of Pacific Coast Banking School.  Last year, she was recognized as a “Top Woman of Influence in Banking” by the Los Angeles Business Journal and as a “Latina to Watch” by the Association of Latino Professionals For America (ALPFA).

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Banking & Financial Services

Falcon Wealth Planning To Celebrate 7 Year Anniversary With Ribbon Cutting Ceremony At Their New Location

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The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce (IERCC) is excited to announce their newest member, Falcon Wealth Planning, Inc. With that announcement comes a celebration, as the IERCC will be helping Falcon Wealth Planning celebrate their 7-year anniversary with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the grand opening of their new building on April 19, 2022.

For this special event, guests will be able to enjoy a meet and greet with Falcon Wealth Planning’s executive staff, high-quality networking, food, and drink, and most of all a great time. The ceremony will take place between 4:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. and include guest speakers from Gabriel Shahin, Principal at Falcon Wealth Planning, Inc., and Edward Ornelas, Jr., President, and CEO of Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Falcon Wealth Planning focuses heavily on tax planning and works with Certified Public Accountants so that you can breeze through tax season and plan today, avoiding stress during your retirement. With over 30 years of experience, they dedicate their services to preparing creative solutions tailored specifically to you.

The IERCC’s mission is to support and contribute to the interests of commerce and economic prosperity throughout Riverside County and San Bernardino County. They are a progressive, non-profit business organization striving to bring true value to their members, investors, sponsors, and community.

Together, they will be celebrating the grand opening of Falcon Wealth Planning’s new building located at 3400 Inland Empire Boulevard In Ontario, California, on April 19, 2022, starting at 4:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are free. It is highly recommended to register early, which you can do so by clicking here!

If you have any questions or need more information, please contact the IERCC at info@iechamber.org.

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Banking & Financial Services

Q&A Session with Black Cooperative Investment Fund Executive Director—Kaine Nicholas

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Q&A with Kaine Nicholas, Executive Director of Black Cooperative Investment Fund

By Josaline Cuesta, Small Business Majority, Senior California Program Manager, and IEBJ Contributor

Why is financial literacy important for small business owners? What are the pillars of financial literacy?

Financial literacy is the comfort level one may have with topics related to money and its management. Financial literacy is critical to success, and it’s where everything begins for small business owners.  

At the beginning of a business venture, an entrepreneur can be cash-challenged and relatively inexperienced in practical business versus theory. It is important that while learning the business terrain, entrepreneurs have at the very least, a baseline of financial literacy to question documents and do calculations or have support to negotiate effective business terms. Any terms that are negotiated at the beginning of a venture can significantly affect the projections or the valuation of a business. These effects can vary widely, depending on the comfort level of financial literacy. 

The pillars of financial literacy are banking, budgeting, saving, credit, debt, and investing. What matters most to small business owners is budgeting, banking, and credit, and we recommend focusing on that order for small business owners. Understanding the numbers, having the assets with banking partners that can offer solutions, and building business and personal credit are all imperative to small business owners. BCIF and its trusted partner, AmPac Business Capital can help everyone gain a firm awareness of these pillars.

What’s needed to create a strong financial plan?

What is needed to make a strong financial plan is the actions that happen alongside writing the actual financial plan. While one may be uncertain of the “hockey stick” or optimistic revenue, what people can control is the cost. Know those costs and how they change in a good, better, or best scenario to keep you prepared.  

No one likes surprises. There is security and comfort in knowing that costs are consistent and predictable. Spend time conducting the research and use due diligence so that you and the financial partners understand the financial plan and financial statements. 

What’s in a business plan, and why is having one essential for a small business owner? 

A business plan is a document that, at its most basic level, can help small business owners navigate the who, what, where, why, and how to generate income with a product or service. The business plan tells the reader that this “document” is your prototype on paper. The business plan also helps readers understand the basic valuation of your business. 

If your business plan is on paper, does it articulate the vision, or is it a requirement for a loan program? The business plan is important because it represents as the creator of the business. Thinking business out on paper can reduce mistakes in real-world execution.  

What’s the best way to document and share major changes to a business plan with your financial advisor and employees, such as becoming a corporation or expanding to another state? 

Ensure the establishment of company meetings and hold them routinely, preferably with quarterly updates. This allows stakeholders to receive firm-wide public information and establishes communication between leadership, management, and employees. 

What are some tips for thinking strategically about cash flow?  

One tip is to understand what is in the pipeline and/or accounts receivables and monitor subscriber trends to your products or solutions. When I ask business owners how their business is doing, they usually respond with, “it’s going well.”  And I always ask myself, what does that really mean, and is the owner aware of the items that support healthy cash flow?

Is a personal credit score relevant to small business success? What defines a “good credit score” and how can you maintain one?

Personal credit is relevant to businesses at the earlier stages of a business. If used correctly, one should leverage good credit and create business credit as soon as possible. Personal credit and business credit are created differently and operate differently. That difference can be critical to accessing capital. Unfortunately, a “good credit score” is not universal. We recommend owners investigate the potential creditor by asking what numerical score and credit history on the credit report will produce a favorable outcome. A credit score and credit report are two components that contribute to a sizable credit decision. With that information, the small business owners have a credit “road map.” What is most important is that the business owner is proactive in the credit conversation. One can maintain and learn more with one of BCIF’s trusted partners, AmPac Business Capital.  

What are the top three easy-to-navigate business loans for a startup business? Do the types of loans that are needed change in your 2nd or 3rd year of business?

The top and the easiest loan is a zero-interest loan based on an alternative way of evaluating personal credit and traditional risk models. If one can find a small business loan that targets a certain demographic or type of business, that should be extremely helpful. Third, look for a small business loan that can be forgiven. 

The types of loans that could change in your second or third year of business can be tricky. Business success and loan/funding gaps require careful consideration, but most important, predictability. 

How will I know that a financial literacy resource is proven and credible?

Financial literacy is a journey. One way to affirm credibility is to compare it to your financial situation. Always have a backup resource for validation.

How can the average entrepreneur improve their financial literacy?

This is an important and critical question that I will answer in an alternative, more direct way. I strongly recommend these three words as ways to improve personal and business financial literacy:

  • Curiosity
  • Humility
  • Discipline

Start with opening your mail and being curious about the words that you do not understand in your statements. Call the service number and ask the person to explain what these words mean regarding your account. It sounds simple, but it truly is a free lesson that benefits your personal or professional situation. The information is memorable because the asker is learning even when configuring the question. (Do not forget your tax person or accountant.   They are your resources).

Humility helps your behavior when you ask a question, and you partially know the answer, but you ask questions to attain mastery.  

Lastly, you must be disciplined and determined when you call the service line or account representative when you do not fully understand a financial term. Do not feel like you are wasting their time asking basic questions. If they have chosen to do business, service your needs, or hold your money, you are only using your mutual rights within the relationship. 

What is the best way to stay abreast of COVID relief funds and resources in the Inland Empire area?

Contact the Black Cooperative Investment Fund (BCIF) at www.bcifund.org, 310-904-6336, reach out to our partner, AmPac Business Capital at www.ampac.com, or visit Venturize: https://venturize.org/—Small Business Majority’s free online resource hub for small business owners who need help accessing tools and resources to grow their businesses.

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