Susan Beat points to boldness as a constant character trait that helped set her apart as she advanced in banking.
The managing director of commercial banking treasury services for MUFG Union Bank is an industry “lifer” who started out as a teller just out of high school and now oversees more than $13 billion in deposits nationwide. She has a national team of 37, five of them in the Irvine office of the New York-based bank, which ultimately is owned by Tokyo-based Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group.
Beat was honored at the Women in Business Awards luncheon on June 23 at Hotel Irvine (see related stories, pages 1, 4, 6 and 9).
She came into banking early and she got lucky before she grew bold.
“I was a part-time teller out of high school,” at Home Federal Savings & Loan she said. “I ended up staying there 14 years. I got on the express. Within my first year, I became the teller supervisor. Then the operations manager, branch manager. I kind of just got lucky.”
The institution was seized by the Resolution Trust Corp. during the savings and loan meltdown, and Beat went to work for First Interstate Bancorp.
Los Angeles-based First Interstate was acquired by Wells Fargo in 1996. Beat stayed on through the acquisition and worked at Wells Fargo for about 10 years in treasury management.
She joined Union Bank in 2005.
“Union Bank supported me with so many opportunities,” she said. “Almost immediately after I joined, they asked me to start covering Orange County. Up until then, I was primarily in San Diego.”
Beat continued to move up the ladder.
“It seems like every year they kept … giving me more,” she said. “The biggest thing was, I was bold. I spoke up about things that needed to change. I just thought it doesn’t hurt to just bring things up. Ultimately, the bank began adopting the recommendations.”
Changes and initiatives Beat led included implementing “tighter parameters around how [to] measure success.”
The bank also gave her more territories.
“I started with San Diego and Orange County, and then the Inland Empire, City of Industry, Los Angeles up to Santa Barbara,” she said. “And now I run the whole thing, which has been fabulous. Now I’m able to really go across the country and make sure we roll out best practices.”
Treasury management is the administration of cash flow and liquidity, as well as management of operational and financial risk.
A key responsibility of Beat and her team’s is to consult with commercial borrowers.
“We’re asking questions, such as, ‘How does your cash flow? Are you collecting as fast as you can? Do you have controls in place? Can you automate reconcilement?’ Those kinds of things. I love it, because every single person that works for me is all about helping the customer to do something better. Hopefully every time my team leaves, my customers say, ‘Wow, I’m glad they came out.’ We do it for nonborrowers, too. We might have a client that doesn’t need to borrow, but they still may need to make sure they are collecting fast enough.”
Beat is part of the leadership of Union Bank’s Council for Diversity and Inclusion.
“When I think of where I came from, it’s pretty amazing, and I want everyone to have that same opportunity,” she said.
“That really helps to ensure that we have a good employee resource group to make sure that we are casting a really wide net for hiring purposes.”
She chairs the bank’s foundation committee for Orange County and Los Angeles.
“That’s my favorite,” she said. “We give out in excess of $2 million a year to various charities. That’s what helped make me familiar with Orange County. I personally vet all the applications for OC, and I go out and meet with the nonprofits.”
She also mentors junior employees, as she was mentored in her career by senior bankers, namely, by JoAnn Bourne and Rita Dailey.
“When I think of what I want to be known for, I want to be known for the difference that I make with the people—that is super important to me,” she said.
“I am up the ladder, and I need to reach down and pull them up. I am always mentoring anywhere between six and 10. And they’re not all women … I think it’s about the people. I understand the corporate objectives, but if you take care of the people first, all that other stuff just falls into place.”