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Reeling in the years: Northern Trust marks 20th on South Coast

By   /   Wednesday, September 24th, 2008  /   Comments Off on Reeling in the years: Northern Trust marks 20th on South Coast

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In 1988, George H.W. Bush was elected president, a first-class postage stamp cost 22 cents and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series.

That also was the year Northern Trust’s Santa Barbara office received its banking charter. The Chicago-based firm marked two decades in California with a Sept. 25 celebration at its office at 206 E. Anapamu St.

Santa Barbara founding Chief Executive Officer Rufus Jeffris Jr., a 44-year South Coast resident, said some key things have changed in the last 20 years. But he didn’t refer to a different Bush being president or a stamp costing more or that the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since.

Instead, Jeffris discussed the banking industry, which has seen many changes since Northern Trust’s Santa Barbara office received its charter. The government has loosened regulations and the advent of the hedge fund has created a changing financial landscape, he said.

“Increased volatility in the markets is due to a combination of deviation from sound underwriting standards and less than disciplined regulatory review,” Jeffris said.

But, he said, the relaxing of government regulations has created some problems. He nonetheless supports the federal government’s move in the last month to catch the falling financial institutions this year. “The government bailout plan is a positive move to calm investors’ fears, but they need to find the right balance of regulatory measures,” he said.

Despite the current turbulent financial climate, Andy Chou, Northern Trusts’ regional president in Santa Barbara, said his firm’s conservative approach to investing allows it to rise above the strife other banks are facing. Thanks to a broader investment asset allocation diversification, Northern

Trust has pulled through without much damage.
Chou has worked for Northern Trust in Santa Barbara for nine years, three of which as regional president. He said the firm’s conservative approach means it is considered one of the financial industry’s most stable.

Chou said that approach has allowed it to survive the “bubbles” in technology and real estate. While Santa Barbara is not completely insulated from the national economy, Chou said the area’s financial outlook “is fairly strong.”

“Now, our clients are seeking safety,” Chou said.

Since 1988, Northern Trust has opened a Montecito office and 10 others in California. The Santa Barbara office started out with 10 employees but now has triple that number. The Santa Barbara office’s first employee, Cheryl Dodge, was the trust operations officer in the original South Coast office.

Now a vice president and western region bank operations officer, Dodge recalls that the first Northern Trust office in California had a “Santa Barbara chic” décor, which at the time was quite different from most other banks. “It was not cubicle and desk, but more like our clients’ living rooms,” she said.

Dodge said she is proud so many women have advanced through the ranks at Northern Trust. Santa Barbara has produced many of the company’s leaders. The first Santa Barbara chief executive officer was Alison Winter, who went on to head up Northern Trust’s Northeast region. She was succeeded by Sherry Barrat, who later ran the entire California and Western region from Los Angeles. Today, she is president of the company’s personal financial services business worldwide.

Another Santa Barbara employee to move up the ranks is John Skjervem who started his career as a portfolio manager at the Santa Barbara branch and is now chief investment officer of personal financial services.

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