Single Mom Who Became a Community Bank CEO Gives Back, Personally and Professionally
Tamara Gurney, the latest KHTS Santa Clarita Unsung Hero  presented by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia, is a single mom who has built Mission Valley Bank  into a thriving $250-million a year business over the past dozen years as its founding president and CEO.
At the same time, Gurney has applied her three-plus decades of community banking knowledge and a community-minded business philosophy to work in leadership roles on the boards of nonprofit organizations that benefit schools, hospitals, children and veterans.
And she will be the first to tell you she has a lot of help from employees at the Sun Valley-based bank’s two Santa Clarita branches and other associates and friends who share her dedication to helping others in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys.
Tamara Gurney Says Helping Others is a 'Team Effort'
“It's really a whole team effort,” Gurney told KHTS air personality Jason Endicott in an on-air interview June 3. “Everyone in the bank chips in any way they can, and there's always going to be a group of Mission Valley folks at all the big fundraisers, doing what they can. … Being a community bank, we're just like every small business on the corner. It's just good practice, and it's our responsibility to be a good corporate citizen ."
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Doing the right thing and crediting others: classic earmarks of an Unsung Hero.
But she is not entirely unsung. Gurney’s leadership by example and her “relationship banking” approach to clients and community have earned respect and accolades from all sides, in the SCV and beyond.
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industry Association and the SCV Economic Development Corporation all named Gurney 2012 “Leader of the Year” in the trade organizations’ first jointly sponsored “Leadership Awards.” She is on the SCVEDC’s executive board as well.
The San Fernando Valley Business Journal named Gurney “Most Trusted Advisor” and gave her the “Trail Blazer Award” in 2011.
And statewide, her peers elected her president of the California Independent Bankers board of directors for 2013, citing her leadership and success as a community banker.
Gurney also serves on the boards of half a dozen more nonprofit organizations. They include the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley, the College of the Canyons Foundation, the Valley Economic Alliance, BizFed, the Southland Opera and the SFV Community Foundation. She’s also an advisory board member of the YMCA of the Santa Clarita Valley
In recent years, Gurney served for four years on the board of directors at Providence-Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. As head of the financial committee, she played a key role in raising funds for the hospital’s tower expansion, which opened in 2012.
Combined, Tamara Gurney’s professional and personal efforts make a positive difference for people in many different walks of life, from special-needs kids and at-risk students, from young entrepreneurs to hospital patients and veterans.
That ROI, or return on investment, is a sense of fulfillment that is priceless, and every bit as important as the ROI on the bank’s investments.
From Single Mom to Banking Executive
As Gurney told Endicott, she didn’t intend to get into banking as a career. It just happened.
In 1980, the mother of two young children became a single parent.
“I needed a job,” Gurney said. “I had two boys I needed to feed, and the entry-level positions, not having any career experience, were in clerical positions – most of them, interestingly enough, in banking.
“So, went to work at Bank of America downtown in their headquarters office, and from there, I worked for community banks … and ultimately found my way to one that was headquartered in the San Fernando Valley.” she said.
On her way up the corporate ladder, Gurney earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix, and later was an Honors Graduate of the University of Wisconsin’s School for Bank Administration in Community Bank Management.
By August 1999, after starting nearly at the bottom two decades earlier, Gurney was executive vice president and chief operating officer at American Pacific State Bank.
After that community bank changed ownership, she took her next logical step: founding a new bank.
Gurney assembled a group of respected community bankers and local business people who raised slightly more than $6 million in startup capital. They formed Mission Valley Bancorp and opened the home office in Sun Valley in July 2001. Under her leadership, the bank broke even in 11 months, and was fully profitable in less than two and a half years.
Mission Valley Bank opened its second and third branches in Santa Clarita in 2004 (Valencia) and 2009 (Centre Pointe) and most recently expanded its SBA Lending Division in Irvine. Today the bank serves more than 3,000 clients throughout Southern California, and in May reported nearly a 200 percent increase in net income for the first quarter of 2013  compared to the same period in 2012.
“I had a great deal of knowledge of (Santa Clarita), having lived here as a younger adult many years ago out near Sand Canyon with my family, but also, my previous bank had branches out here,” Gurney said. “So, I was familiar with the area, and there was an opportunity at that time. Many of my staff live here, so it also was a good opportunity to have people work close to home.”
COC Scholarships for SCV Homes for Heroes Veterans
Though reluctant to spotlight any particular group she works with, because she is passionate about all of them, Gurney mentioned College of the Canyons (“a huge resource for this valley”) and helping military veterans in her role as a member of COC’s scholarship committee.
“We are focusing on (granting scholarships to) veterans because there will be so many returning,” she said. “Likewise, you see (SCV Habitat) for Heroes , affiliated with Habitat for Humanity. Great, we want to help (veterans) get into a home, but they need to keep the home, so they need to transition into society and have a skill so they can earn an income to protect that investment and grow in the community.”
That sounds like what Gurney has done in her life, and continues to do, at Mission Valley Bank: invest and grow in the Santa Clarita Valley.
“Being a community bank, we're just like every small business on the corner. It's just good practice, and it's our responsibility to be a good corporate citizen,” she said.
“While many of the large money-centered banks have big budgets where they can write a big check to a charity or give funds — we do give funds, we're limited in that capacity, but we can give ourselves,” she said. “So, as people who live and work in the community, we also volunteer our time.”
See and Hear the Complete Tamara Gurney Santa Clarita Unsung Hero Interview
Watch the complete interview and learn more about this Santa Clarita Unsung Hero’s good deeds.
You can also hear and download the audio podcast: Interview With Santa Clarita Unsung Hero Tamara Gurney .
Read all of KHTS's Santa Clarita Unsung Heroes features  brought to you by Mercedes-Benz of Valencia.
Mercedes-Benz of Valencia is proud to be part of the Santa Clarita Valley, not only giving you the superior customer service you deserve, but also giving back to our community by supporting our schools, sports teams, Sheriff's Station and nonprofit organizations. Now, Mercedes-Benz of Valencia and KHTS  have teamed up to present "Santa Clarita's Unsung Heroes," a series of special features spotlighting local residents who make a difference in our valley. With new contributions also comes a new Mercedes management team. Visit Mercedes-Benz of Valencia  today.
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Tamara Gurney Of Mission Valley Bank - A Santa Clarita Unsung Hero
Article: Tamara Gurney Of Mission Valley Bank - A Santa Clarita Unsung Hero 
Source: Santa Clarita News
Author: Stephen Peeples