Raul Anaya’s desk is littered with what he calls “deal toys” – plaques and trinkets commemorating big transactions he’s worked on, such as the construction loan that helped Anschutz Entertainment Group build L.A. Live. It’s a collection he’s put together over the past eight years as the head of Bank of America’s commercial banking practice in Los Angeles. But just over a year ago, he picked up an additional title: market president for greater Los Angeles. That makes him the public face of Bank of America in one of the bank’s biggest markets. While it’s a role the gregarious banker clearly relishes, he acknowledges it hasn’t been the easiest time to represent a major bank. Last summer, protesters gathered outside his home in a quiet Pasadena neighborhood to decry Bank of America’s foreclosure procedures. The incident made the local news, but what didn’t get mentioned was Anaya’s blue-collar background: The son of Mexican emigrants, Anaya was the first in his family to go to college; his father never made it past elementary school. Anaya recently sat down with the Business Journal to talk about how he went from working in his father’s auto body shop to climbing the ranks at Bank of America and arranging some of the biggest financing deals in Los Angeles.

Question: Where’d you grow up?

Answer: I was born in Detroit. When I was 12 we moved to Brownsville, Texas. That’s in the southern tip of Texas, on the border. You can’t drive any further without going into Mexico.

Why the move?

My parents decided they wanted to get away from the cold winters and my dad wanted to start a business.

What did your folks do?

My mom was an assistant teacher working for an elementary school. My dad was a body shop man. He fixed cars – not a mechanic, but a body man. He’d always worked for others and wanted to try being an entrepreneur himself.

Why Brownsville?

We had an aunt, uncle and a cousin there, and since most of their family was in central Mexico, we were two days closer than we had been in Detroit.

Your parents are both from Mexico?

My mom, she and her family moved to Detroit from Mexico when she was in her teens. They had some friends and relatives living there. My dad did the same, emigrated from a small town in Zacatecas in central Mexico. He had cousins and family in Detroit as well. He wanted to get into the auto business.

Did their families know each other or come to the United States at the same time?

No, it was pure coincidence. They met, they fell in love. We lived in a very modest home in Detroit, right next to Dearborn.

So your dad started a body shop after you moved to Brownsville. What was it called?

Anaya’s Body and Paint Shop. It was my dad and one employee. He started it and had it for 20 years, then retired. Dad is 77, mom is 70. They’re both in good health, thank goodness.

Did you work at the shop as a kid?

I remember going in and helping my dad. It was super hot in Brownsville. With the humidity factor, it was always over 100. It’s all muscle work – banging on cars, welding. It was tough. He wanted me to help him so I would want something else that was better.

So I guess it worked.

He only got me interested in the business enough for me to know how hard it was, but not enough for me to fall in love with it. At some point, when I was 16 or so, he didn’t want me to come help him as much. My parents ingrained in us – me and my brother and sister – that college was not an option, it was a requirement. It was something we were going to do come hell or high water.

How much education did they have?

My mom graduated from high school, my dad basically stopped at elementary school.

When you went to college, you studied business. Why?

I used to help my dad reconcile his books, so I knew how much revenue he was generating and I knew when expenses were tight. I didn’t know what I was going to be, but I knew it was going to be in business. I didn’t know what aspect of business until I became a teller.

That was a job you had as a student?

Yeah, I became a teller when I was a sophomore in college.

Which bank?

Texas Commerce Bank. Funny thing, it’s actually part of JPMorgan Chase now. It really is. I was a teller, and I remember I was really impressed with how all the loan officers would come into office in their suits. And they’d meet with these business owners: the owner of a local furniture store or a grocery store. There were all these industries and companies.

So it’s the variety that you liked?

It’s the opportunity to meet so many individuals that are involved in so many different industries. Even today, I’m still learning something new every week. Today, I’m going out with our investment bankers to talk about a growing apparel company. Last week, I was spending some time with the folks at Panda Restaurant Group and learning about the restaurant industry.

Any deals you’ve worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

My team and I led the financing for L.A. Live back in 2007. I’m proud of it because we helped transform downtown by playing a small role with AEG and helping them drive that vision.

You’ve been market president in Los Angeles for just over a year. What does that job entail? What do you do?

A lot of my time is spent internally, rallying the troops. And a lot is spent getting out in the community – the business community, the non-profit community – and with elected officials, talking about the great things we’re doing. I spend a fair amount of time with all our lines of business, helping integrate things so that we’re delivering one company in the marketplace.

What do you mean by that?

If you’re a consumer and you’re banking in one of our branches, the goal is for your banker to not only handle your personal needs, but if he or she is a business owner, to make sure our small-business banking group or our commercial banking unit is introduced to that customer. We want to handle all the financial needs of that customer, personally and on the business side as well.

What’s the area you’re responsible for? How big is it?

We have 16,000 associates in greater Los Angeles. That goes from Lancaster to Long Beach and from Santa Monica to Pomona.

You also lead the bank’s local commercial banking practice. How do you split your time?

It blends together. It’s hard for me to say percentagewise. One of the reasons I was asked to become market president is that I deal in the business community all the time. I deal with large companies, many of which you’d recognize. And because I deal in that world, it becomes a little easier for me to represent the bank.

How often do you meet with commercial clients?

Let’s see. (Consults calendar). Last week, 10 meetings. That’s the fun part of it – spending time with clients and learning what’s important to them. Monday it was a meeting with the Dodgers, then a lunch with someone in the personal care industry, then cocktails in the evening with a finance company. It’s just a mix. No day and no week is ever the same.

What was it like to have protesters show up outside of your house?

Shortly after I became market president, that did happen. The whole Occupy Wall Street movement was still pretty strong. We had a group of individuals, a large group, that came to the house and showed their displeasure at some of our foreclosure practices. It was obviously unexpected. At the end of the day, we used it as a learning experience. Our goal is to keep families in their homes. We need to work with our borrowers on how we can help them.

I imagine it hasn’t been an easy few years to be an executive at a big bank.

I would say a year ago, the banking industry and bankers in general may not have been held in the highest regard. But at the same time, we’re trying to do our part to revitalize the economy. You need a strong banking system and you need strong banks to get the economy going.

How long have you been with Bank of America?

I joined the bank back right after college in 1989 – almost 24 years ago. Back then it was NationsBank. My first opportunity was in Houston. I was already married and had a child at that time, so we all moved to Houston.

So you started your family when you were pretty young.

We got married right at the start of college. She was my high school sweetheart. We separated seven years ago and got divorced a little over five years ago.

And you’re getting married again, I hear?

That’s right. No date set yet.

What about your kids? What are they up to?

We have three kids – Analisa, Stephanie and Ryan. Analisa lives in Phoenix. She’s an academic counselor for the University of Phoenix. Stephanie just finished her first year at Loyola Marymount, studying business. And Ryan is a freshman in high school.

Does Stephanie want to go into banking?

I’ll actually bring her in and have her talk to some of my bankers. She won’t listen to me – never listens to dad. (Laughs). But I’ve introduced her to some clients, just for her to interview them and get their perspective and thoughts on what she should be thinking about doing. I want to be as helpful as I can, but in a different way than how my dad was.

How so?

My dad was very much, “You need to focus on education, I want you to do better than me.” I want to help support them by giving them some guidance in thinking about what they want to be.

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