By Hannah Lang
(Reuters) -Greg Becker, the chief executive officer who presided over the collapsed Silicon Valley Bank, joined the company three decades ago as a loan officer.
The executive cut his teeth during the dotcom bubble and later steered the startup-focused lender in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis. He became president and CEO of SVB Financial Group in 2011.
The company’s operations abruptly came to a halt on Friday as California banking regulators moved quickly to shut it down in what became the largest bank failure since the financial crisis. Just 24 hours earlier, Becker had personally called clients to assure them their money with the bank was safe.
The executive sent a video message to employees on Friday acknowledging the “incredibly difficult” 48 hours leading up to the bank’s collapse.
“It’s with an incredibly heavy heart that I’m here to deliver this message,” he said in a video seen by Reuters. “I can’t imagine what was going through your head and wondering, you know, about your job, your future.”
Becker, who served on the board of directors at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, departed the board effective Friday, a spokesperson for the regional Fed bank said.
In January, Becker said the economic outlook was improving after a downbeat 2022.
“We’re optimistic because our crystal ball is a little clearer,” Becker told CNBC. While he expected public markets to stabilize, “we still think in the first half there is going to be more volatility.”
Becker graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in business, according to Silicon Valley Bank’s website. From there, he worked at a bank that served what he called “traditional companies.” When his manager left to work for Silicon Valley Bank, Becker followed, he said in 2021 on a Bloomberg podcast.
Representatives for Silicon Valley Bank did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The banker described his first few years at SVB as “the highest of highs and the lowest of lows” as the lender navigated the tech rout of the late 1990s.
“We took losses. It was a challenging time for us… I look back on it fondly. I learned a lot about the institution. I learned a lot about how to lend money,” he said.
Before becoming president and CEO of SVB Financial Group, Becker co-founded SVB Capital, the company’s investment arm. He also served as the chairman of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group from 2014 to 2017 and was a member of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Digital Economy Board of Advisors from 2016 to 2017. Becker cycles in his free time and has five grown children.
Silicon Valley Bank’s website calls Becker a “champion of the innovation economy.” In a video for the BBC in December, Becker said his best career advice was for job seekers to build a skill-set around the innovation economy in fields like computer programming and project management.
“When you think about your opportunity, if you are under-represented (and have) those skills, it truly is endless,” he said.
(Reporting by Hannah Lang in Washington; Editing by Lananh Nguyen, Josie Kao and Raju Gopalakrishnan)