Banking Friends Reunite After 24 Years
By MIRANDA ENZOR
CITIZEN BONDING: Jim Boze, left, and Sandy Bjornson first worked together in the early 1980s at United Bank. After parting ways for over 20 years, the pair now work together at Citizens Security Bank.
GTR Newspapers photo
It was the early 1980s and Sandy Bjornson was eager to get into banking. A recent graduate of Oklahoma State University, he would visit the United Bank located at 71st Street and Memorial Drive. In his U-Haul uniform, his place of employment at the time, he would ask the secretary for a position, any position, to get his foot in the door.
Finally the bank’s Human Resources Director, Mary Bea May relented, saying the only position available was letting customers into their safety deposit boxes.
Bjornson took it, not realizing he was about to embark on a 25-plus year banking career.
Bjornson soon began to cross-train in opening new accounts and handling collateral pledging for state deposits. United Bank hired Jim Boze as its Senior Lending Officer in 1980. Bjornson progressed to lending and became one of Boze’s loan secretaries.
“He was the most unattractive secretary I’ve ever had,” Boze laughs.
But the partnership turned into a mentorship and Boze began teaching Bjornson everything he had learned during his banking experience.
“I became a consumer lending officer and worked my way up to commercial lending,” Bjornson says. “I started doing SBA loans and servicing a SBA loan portfolio of about 60 loans already on the books. I worked myself up to vice president.
“In 1983, I got an offer from another Tulsa bank and left. Jim stayed, and I kind of lost track of him.”
The pair wouldn’t meet again until 2006 when Boze hired Bjornson to work for Citizens Security Bank. Boze worked in Muskogee and Arkansas as group president for Regions Bank; Bjornson climbed higher and found a spot on a board of directors for another bank in Tulsa. During that time, both worked in a number of environments where they experienced banking and corporate mergers.
“The environment changes when you go from being a $175 million locally owned bank to being a small part of a $6.5 billion bank holding company,” Bjornson explains. “I knew at the board of directors level that I wanted to go back to working for a bank owned and managed by Oklahomans.”
Fortunately for him, this would be the case with Citizens Security Bank. Citizens has a long history with Oklahoman ownership beginning from its opening date in January 1924. Carlisle Mabrey, III and his family are the proud and very involved owners of the bank. A multi-generational banking family, the Mabreys have owned and operated banks in Oklahoma since the early 1900’s. The Mabrey family owns 13 banks in 10 Oklahoma communities.
When Boze returned to Tulsa, he looked up Bjornson. Shortly after, Boze became Citizens Security Bank’s executive vice president. When he was given the opportunity to hire a Tulsa market president only one name came to mind.
“Sandy was the first person I called,” Boze says.
Now the pair works for Citizen Security Bank, whose main location is at 148th and Memorial in Bixby. Bjornson is in temporary offices located at 101st and Yale; a new bank is being built at 81st and Yale.
“Moving to CSB was a chance to shed all the administrative duties I was used to doing,” Bjornson says. “For me, the fun part of banking is calling on prospects and customers and then watching them succeed. This was the opportunity to go back to doing what I like to do most in banking and let Jim and other people handle the administrative part of it. It was a chance to go back and start having fun again.”
“We’re both having a lot of fun doing what we’re doing and don’t have that stress. Whatever stress we have now is self-inflicted,” Boze laughs.
While both are focused on their work, they manage to enjoy spending time together outside of the bank. The pair used to spend their lunch hours at Mazzio’s playing Pac-Man while at United Bank. Now their after-work adventures are a bit more subdued.
“We went and listened to a band in a parking lot the other night,” Bjornson says. “It’s my intention to get Jim over for dinner and grill some hamburgers, but we just haven’t gotten around to it.”
“I’m a Harley rider and Sandy’s interested in riding,” adds Boze.
But it looks like motorcycle rides will have to wait for a while.
“We’ve just been too busy,” Bjornson says.
“And I can’t stay up as late as I used to,” jokes Boze.
Both Boze and Bjornson expressed their appreciation to bank ownership, the Mabrey family, for allowing them to operate in this productive environment.
For more information on Citizens Security Bank, visit www.citizenssecurity.com.