Bank of Marin changes board and seeks more female directors

At a time when diversity on the boards is a hot topic around water coolers, Bank of Marin and its parent company have announced a few changes to their boards – and more are expected to come.

Public companies are under pressure to diversify their boards, but recent court cases have quashed legislative efforts to force them to do so.

“We need more female directors,” said William H. “Willie” McDevitt, the new incoming chairman of Bank of Marin’s board effective May 10. The Marin County Bank just selected the director on April 7 to lead the board.

The Sausalito-based hotelier is switching seats with outgoing chairman Brian Sobel, who returns to a standard seat on the board after seven years at the helm of the panel and the bank in a period of $2.5 billion asset growth. dollars to $4.3 billion, Bank of Marin’s parent company, Bancorp, reported.

Both men are active in various North Bay groups beyond their business backgrounds. Sobel, a Petaluma broadcast media veteran, represents the bank’s longest-serving chairman of the board since its founding in 1990.

Sobel told the Business Journal that his tenure on the board lasted so long for three reasons.

First, the coronavirus outbreak, now in its third year, has prompted most companies to stick with the familiar.

“I thought I was going to serve four to five years, but the pandemic has certainly had a very big impact on the bank. We felt it was important to (maintain) the leadership of the bank,” Sobel said.

Second, Sobel said he stayed on to help new Bank of Marin CEO and Chairman Tim Myers transition after former CEO Russell Colombo retired Oct. 31.

“The beauty of it all has been the continuity,” Sobel said.

Third, the bank made a major acquisition by buying American River Bank, which closed in August for $125 million. The deal added 10 Central Valley Marketplaces and two other board members to the 14-person panel — printing veteran Nicolas Anderson, CEO of Archer Hall; and real estate specialist Charles Fite.

Three months later, telecommunications expert Norma J. Howard retired last November, after serving on the board for 25 years.

In January, the bank announced that Howard’s departure had been followed by another board member, Leslie E. Murphy, CEO of W. Bradley Electric. She left the board of directors after five years. Neither Howard nor Murphy responded to telephone inquiries.

McDevitt billed the departures of Murphy and Howard as part of the normal attrition that occurs on the boards.

“They made great contributions. It was just their time. Refreshing the board is an important thing to do,” said McDevitt, who knows banking all too well. He was the founding director of Bank of Petaluma, which Bank of Marin bought in 2000.

Today, the current 12-member board has only one woman, Secil Tabli Watson, an independent consultant. Other board members include McDevitt, Sobel, Myers, Colombo, Anderson and Fite, as well as retired bank executive Steven Barlow, former Federal Reserve Governor Robert Heller; financial planner Kevin Kennedy and Columbus Strategic Advisors founder James Hale.

Myers has expressed excitement about McDevitt taking over the bank’s board because he likes his management style.

“Willie is a thoughtful person who is always ready. He is a local business owner who has integrated knowledge into the community. He has a good understanding of where (the bank has) evolved and where it is evolving,” he said.

Similarly, Myers agreed with McDevitt that the board needed female representation and confirmed that board leadership was actively seeking candidates. Those with acquisition experience are “always” welcome.

“With female executives, we benefit from their expertise. We will want to see who the best candidates are. I support so much diversity — 110%. We need a diverse board,” the bank’s CEO said.

Apparently, the upper echelons of Bank of Marin aren’t the only publicly traded company executives feeling the pinch of adding more women to boards because they’re underrepresented, among other minorities. , according to two laws enacted since 2018.

However, these laws are disputed. A conservative-leaning advocacy group, Judicial Watch, challenged the two California laws in Los Angeles Superior Court dealing with board mandates for the number of women on one (Senate Bill 826) as well as people of color and those of the LGBTQ community on another (Assembly Bill 979). He recently won the latter on the grounds that the quotas were considered unconstitutional, The New York Times reported on April 4. A separate lawsuit has been filed against the Gender Diversity Act.

Shawanda H. Saldana