Beth Ryan of Santa Rosa’s Exchange Bank wins North Bay Women in Business award

Beth Ryan

Vice president and customer experience manager

Exchange Bank

545 Fourth St., Santa Rosa 95401


Beth Ryan says living a balanced life without guilt is a biggest challenge. She is a 2020 North Bay Business Journal Women in Business Awards winner.

Professional background: I have been with Exchange Bank my entire professional career — starting as a teller in 1988. I am currently the Bank’s first vice president and customer experience manager.

Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology, Dominican University, summa cum laude

Staff: I oversee the bank’s call center and I have one additional employee dedicated to the bank’s Customer Experience Program.

Tell us about yourself and your company: I have the honor of working for Exchange Bank — a local, community bank founded by Manville and Frank Doyle that is currently celebrating 130 years of service. I am extremely proud of the Bank’s legacy and its culture of duty to the community that has always been an innate part of our cultural DNA.

I tell people that Exchange Bank has raised me –having started there in 1988. I have spent the majority of my career at EB on the Retail side of the bank — first in the branches and then supporting the branch network and call center.

Today, I oversee Exchange Bank’s Customer Experience Program. The program is charged with bringing the voices of our customers into the bank to help shape our strategic planning, fix existing customer pain-points, and celebrating what we do well. It’s been the best, most fulfilling (and challenging) job of my career thus far!

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?

At Exchange Bank we celebrate customer experience the first week of every October. It’s a week where we thank our employees for their roles in creating exceptional experiences for our customers every day.

It’s a week filled with food, silliness, games and bank wide bingo games that employees lose their minds over. Our CX Week branding and messaging has evolved over the years to the point that we have CX Superhero personas that represent the unique strengths of all our employees.

In 2019 the CX Week planning committee wanted the art and copy to be bigger than ever as we had gone through a huge online banking conversion and we really wanted to capture that hard, hard important work.

Our tag line was “Moving Mountains.” The process that the planning committee went through from floating ideas to finished product was everything - uncomfortable, overwhelming, moments of brilliance, disagreements, visions aligning, valuing different perspectives, asking for help and getting it, recognizing individual contributions - and finally, celebrating a brilliant piece that comes to be only when you have a team that trusts each other completely.

I’m really proud of that creative process and the space needed to produce something so amazing.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?

I do not know how to not make this appear cliché but it’s my truth.

Becoming a mom to my son Jameson (later in life) is by far my greatest achievement. I needed a mom heart and eyes to do all the good things that I was meant to do. I learned that my ability to love was infinite and that my ability to empathize was, too.

And the more I gave of both, the more I had to give. All of my proudest achievements have come as a result of a leadership and life doctrine that holds both of those values as paramount.

What is your biggest challenge today?

Living a balanced life without guilt.

Words that best describe you: Kind, intuitive, influencer, multi-tasker (looks chaotic but I get it done), fun, engaging and occasionally restless (I asked a co-worker for a “bad” trait)

In what ways have the pandemic and the shelter-in-place orders changed who you are as a person that will be a part of you long after the pandemic has passed?

Over the last several years I have really tried to slow down to consider many different perspectives before I move forward on anything of consequence.

Everything worth doing takes more time than we would like and lots and lots of conversations. We see the consequences every day of moving too quickly, not involving the right people and not having enough information before decisions are made and action is taken.

With the pandemic, SIP and now the harsh realities of living Black in America I’ve taken listening, learning, and reflection to an entirely new level.

I’m convinced that the way we move forward on all of our most important work is through conversation. Lots of conversations. I’m committed to coming to every single one with a perspective that is curious, open and self-aware.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?

I’m stumped answering this question as I don’t believe that I have truly overcome the obstacles that exist for women and minorities in the workplace today…or at least not to the degree that I envision when I allow myself to dream about true inclusive leadership.

Senior leadership teams in companies, boards and non-profits very rarely reflect the communities in which they serve and they need to. Unconscious bias is real. The finish line is the same but the starting line is not. I’m blessed to work in an organization where those views can be shared and honored.

And I’m excited to see platforms like this one moving those meaningful conversations forward in a big, big way. How do I overcome big obstacles?

Being afraid and taking that first step. Knowing that I might fail and doing it anyway. Asking for help as soon as I need it. Accepting feedback and making changes even when it hurts. The journey continues.

Who was your most important mentor? And tell us a little bit about that person: It’s a tie. Has to be.

Rolf Nelson was my first mentor and I had the privilege of working with him for most of my career (and his) at Exchange Bank.

Rolf oversaw Retail at the senior management level. Rolf’s job was big…and busy… both inside the bank and in his active work in the community. Rolf lived through action — every day — valuing people and his relationships with people above all else.

No matter what deadline he was under, no matter what challenge he was charged with solving, no matter what tough decisions lay before him - anyone could walk into his office at any time and know that they would be given his full, undivided attention.

Rolf was also keenly aware of his privileged status and was always open to and sought out feedback around his blind spots. The only other man that has had such a life changing effect on me is my son, Jameson.

Ann Hudson, currently on the bank’s executive team, oversees the retail bank and customer experience. When Ann was named to oversee retail and other areas of the bank in mid-2015 she made quick reporting line changes that made her my manager. Ann came into the bank when I was ready to hear what she had to say. I don’t know that she could have had the same impact on my development had she come sooner.

Ann has shown me that women can have it all — a successful career, family, friends and her own passions too. Ann shows me what brave, humble leadership looks like. Ann teaches with her silence. Ann teaches with not knowing it all. Ann teaches with her unwavering faith that her team can solve anything. Ann models inclusive, ears open, mouth shut leadership every single day.

Both Rolf and Ann saw my strengths well before I did. They held up those important mirrors for me. And it’s funny, years before I was charged with developing and running the bank’s new Customer Experience Program by Ann, Rolf told me that I should do just that. I told Rolf that I wasn’t “strategic enough” to create a new program on my own. He disagreed. When Ann talked with me about the same role she didn’t give me a choice.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?

It’s ok to want it all and you absolutely can do it all and do it all well. Repeat. We tend to put women (and men) in confined boxes – assigning labels, shoulds and should nots, dos and don’ts to each that can keep our lives small and unrealized.

Know those gender labels early and challenge people and systems that perpetuate them. But the other critical piece to doing it all and having the big life that you want is recognizing that no matter what realm you are in (professional or personal), you need the help and support of the people there with you in order to be successful. If you can't ask for help, if you think getting help is a sign of weakness, you will never realize your fully evolved self.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Typical day at the office: Best place to work outside of your office: Even before our current shelter-in-place realities, my kitchen table has a good track record when creative work is required.

Current reading: “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle

Most want to meet: Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston and author of “Daring Greatly” and “Dare to Lead “

Social media you most use: Instagram – I like the Instagram story bubbles and someday when I have the time I want to learn how to create them like the celebrity artists (and younger friends) that I follow.

Stress relievers: Being with the people that I love, walking quietly with my dog Joey Marie, and dancing.

Favorite hobbies: Attending concerts (preferably big and outdoors…yes, play sad music here), dancing, spending quality time with my close friends, reading, listening to podcasts and traveling

What would parents or significant others say if asked to brag about you?

I asked both to respond directly.

My mom noted this: ’I’m her mother, and I can tell you many things about my first child. But the one thing I would brag about is how she has given her all to whatever job she was doing, including her job while in high school. She never did anything half way. Total dedication was how she went about all her undertakings whether it was saving every stray dog in the neighborhood as a young child or achieving Summa Cum Laude in college while working at Exchange Bank.

When Beth had a goal, you had absolutely no concerns about its completion.’

Tim, my significant other noted this: ’She listens, really listens without responding and then acts.

When she’s with you, she’s 100% present in that moment, place, and time. Beth’s uber presence is something hard to find in today’s attention distracted world. She juggles a lot - amazing that nothing gets dropped.’

Beth Ryan

Vice president and customer experience manager

Exchange Bank

545 Fourth St., Santa Rosa 95401


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