Q: What did you do when you started?
A: Immediately when I started with the bank I was brought in at all levels of the transaction everything from being a teller to dealing with clients and dealing with any problems that might arise.
Q: How many family members currently work for the bank?
A: My father, my great uncle, my brother and also a nephew. I have a niece who works in the trust company. We have a separate company here called Farmers & Merchants Trust Co., where we handle estates and trusts.
Q: How did the bank get its start?
A: The bank was started in 1907 by my great-grandfather, C.J. Walker. In 1907 there was a severe recession that was hitting the country and hit Long Beach as well. My great-grandfather, who was a founder of Long Beach and well-respected citizen, was called upon to take over (First National Bank of Long Beach) and he did so with his own capital and with the capital of a few others.
Q: He was a founder of Long Beach?
A: He was one of the city fathers that helped transition it from Wilmore City to the city of Long Beach. He came here I think in 1885.
Q: Why was First National struggling?
A: (They) didn't have the controls or the banking regulations that we have today. That allowed the original investors of First National Bank of Long Beach to take their capital and put it into illiquid equities. When there was a call on the deposits, they didn't have the liquidity to service their depositors and the bank was failing.
Q: So your great-grandfather and other investors took over in 1907. Then what?
A: They recapitalized the bank, helped it survive and then changed the name a month later to Farmers & Merchants Bank of Long Beach.
Q: Has your family always held the top positions at the institution?
A: Always been held by the Walker family, yes. (C.J.) was succeeded by Gus, my grandfather, who was succeeded by my father. Then I succeeded my father as CEO and my brother succeeded him as president.
Q: Do you think your children will join the bank as well?
A: I don't know. It depends on if they really have a passion for the business. I have three children. They're fairly young at this point in time and while I would welcome them into the business, it is a business of service, it is a business of relationship and it is complex. It takes a lot of hours. If they want to devote the time and the effort, and have a passion for it, I would welcome it. But if they don't, they don't.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.