Staff Reporter

Donna Longnaecker is a survivor in the incredible shrinking world of Southern California banking.

She began her career in 1969 at Security Pacific Bank and worked there until the bank was about to be acquired by Bank of America in 1992.

She jumped ship just before the deal closed to join California Republic Bank, but then that bank was also acquired by First Interstate Bank.

Longnaecker found a new home at First Interstate, until that bank was acquired by Wells Fargo Bank last April. She stayed on in a transitional role and was eventually hired by Home Savings of America, after Home Savings bought 61 former First Interstate branches from Wells Fargo, as required by regulators.

Longnaecker remained at Home Savings until she and a colleague were hired at Glendale Federal Bank.

"You have to think, 'I can survive. I'm still mobile. If I can't survive, I'll find a job somewhere else," Longnaecker said. "There's definitely no feeling of job security."

Survivors like Longnaecker are not uncommon in L.A.'s consolidating banking industry, where each new merger puts hundreds of workers out on the street. In the First Interstate-Wells Fargo merger alone, First Interstate's staff was reduced by some 8,900 employees.

Many of those displaced people both from First Interstate and other mergers have landed on their feet since the layoffs, some in higher-paid, more prominent positions. Still, the looming prospect of being let go is a chronic source of stress as is seeing former colleagues laid off and former workplaces merged out of existence.

Not all of those affected by the local banking industry consolidation have chosen to hang in there. A number of former bankers have left the field altogether to pursue finance-related careers in other industries.

Longnaecker said learning about merger-related job changes repeatedly has been somewhat jolting.

"First of all you panic and say, 'What's going to happen now?' Then you realize it's beyond your control, and whatever happens is in the hands of other people," she said.

Personal finances, such as car and house payments, were some of the weightier matters on Longnaecker's mind after various merger announcements and her subsequent job uncertainties.

"When the Wells acquisition (of First Interstate) was announced, I took money out of my savings account and made six payments in advance on my home mortgage," she said.


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