Growing up in Atascadero, Greg Bland never imagined he would become a bank executive. As a youth, he raised show hogs and competed in fairs around the state.
Inspired by his Atascadero High School agriculture teacher, Al DeRose, Bland decided to attend Cal Poly with a major in animal science. His long-term plan was to pursue a career in food and fiber production, or possibly to teach.
Bland graduated with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1984 and began interviewing with agricultural companies.
“I discovered that I was most interested in the management or business operations and the finance side of agriculture,” he said.
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During that time, he ran into a college friend at the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market, who introduced him to Lou Sbarra, the assistant vice president of Bank of America in Atascadero at the time. While waiting in line for ribs, the two discussed the bank’s management training program.
“I thought the program was a good opportunity for me to learn about management, banking and finance,” Bland said.
He applied for the position and landed a job the following week as a management trainee with Bank of America.
Today, Bland is Bank of America’s senior vice president of global commercial banking, California coastal region, and market president of San Luis Obispo County. Still, he has not forgotten his roots in agriculture. Bland operates a small hog farm with his kids, raising show pigs for county fairs. He also stays in touch with the agricultural community through his work.
“Bank of America has been a good fit for me because of its pioneering role in supporting agribusiness in California and throughout the nation,” he said.
Recently, Bland discussed the challenges, rewards and relevance of his work, both at Bank of America and on the farm.
Q. What does your position entail?
A. As market president, I serve as Bank of America’s leader, integrating all our lines of business to maximize local resources for clients and impact for the community. I also lead Bank of America’s corporate social responsibility work in the region to help support nonprofit organizations to meet community needs such as housing, hunger, health care, financial wellness and education, workforce development and the fine arts. We take a holistic approach to community impact, with a combination of providing grants annually to local nonprofits, our employees volunteering time back to the community, and our executives serving on nonprofit boards.
In addition to my role as market president, I also serve as senior vice president of global commercial banking for the California coastal region, serving Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. In this capacity, my responsibility is to manage and help our clients grow their business. I do this by providing expertise, financial solutions, treasury and capital markets products and services to commercial banking clients.
Q. What are the most rewarding parts of your job?
A. The people and relationships I have with my clients and colleagues I work with are the most rewarding and meaningful to me.
Q. The most challenging?
A. To have enough time to accomplish everything I want to do.
Q. How has growing up locally influenced your work at Bank of America?
A. Growing up here gives me great pride and commitment to give back to this community. I am very pleased to provide businesses in our community with access to capital and resources available at Bank of America to help them grow and prosper. It’s also deeply gratifying to lead the decision making on the grants we award to local nonprofits to help our underserved populations improve.
Q. How did your hog farm come about?
A. It started when my daughter Mackenzie was 9 years old and had an interest in showing pigs with first the Solomon Hills Grange (in Orcutt) and later Nipomo FFA at the county fair. This is a great opportunity for my kids to learn about agriculture, responsibilities for caring for animals, running a business with actual income and expenses, and all the trials and tribulations of owning a business. I am grateful to be able to provide this opportunity to my children, as I was afforded the same opportunity when I was a child growing up in Atascadero.
Q. Is it challenging to balance a demanding career with a farming operation?
A. It is somewhat challenging, but very manageable. If you enjoy your work and purpose of what you do, it doesn’t feel like a job.
Q. What do you see as the future of small farms in our county?
A. Our county has a long history of agriculture, and I believe small farms will continue to be a point of interest for some people in our communities. The purpose of a small farm may vary from hobbies, 4-H and FFA projects to supplement someone’s income, or perhaps provide a sole source of income. Small farms typically will not have economies of scale to compete with larger enterprises or produce enough volume to support a family.
Q. What should those considering a small farm operation be aware of?
A. Your expenses will be more than you project and your income will be much less than you project.
Q. Any economic forecasts for the coming year?
A. The U.S. has experienced a long and slow economic recovery from the recession. I believe we will continue to see progress in the U.S. economy. This is a great time for businesses to invest or source inexpensive capital to grow if demand for products or services are stable or increasing.
Q. What is your best advice for local business owners?
A. Provide the best service and quality of product within your industry as you can. Invest in people and manage by example. Create core values and objectives for your business and communicate these to your employees often. Have a clear purpose and mission statement. Know your industry well and know your competitors even better. In other words, differentiate your company from others within your industry to be able to create value for your clients.
Title(s): Bank of America market president, San Luis Obispo County; Bank of America senior vice president, global commercial banking, California coastal region.
City of residence: Nipomo
Family: Four children ranging in age from 13 to 20. The oldest, Quintin and Whitney, are in college. Mackenzie is a sophomore at Nipomo High School, and Sam is an eighth-grader at Mesa Middle School.
Hobbies: Golf, snow skiing, trap shooting, fly-fishing, hiking and riding motorcycles.
Favorite apps: My Fitness Pal, Sleep Time, CBS Sports, Sonos and Bank of America Mobile Banking.