‘Homegrown Examiner’ Returns to Her Roots as Community and Regional Banking SVP
On September 1, 2022, Mongkha Pavlick stepped into her “dream job”—Senior Vice President of the Community and Regional Banking at the San Francisco Fed, which includes supervisory oversight and risk-focused examinations of institutions with assets less than $100 billion.
This latest role is a bit of a homecoming for Mongkha, who started her SF Fed journey as a community banking intern more than 20 years ago. Since then, she has overseen many other areas of supervision at the Fed, including consumer compliance, credit risk management, and fintech as an Examining Manager, Director, and Group Vice President. Mongkha shares her career highlights, leadership thoughts, and vision for moving supervision forward.
How did you get involved with the SF Fed?
I dropped off my resume at a fall college recruiting fair on the campus of the University of Southern California (USC). At the end of my junior year, I got a call asking if I wanted to apply to an associate examiner role, but I hadn’t graduated yet. So, I told the recruiter that I could not start a full-time job, but I would love an internship, which is how I started with the Federal Reserve.
At the end of my internship, they didn’t have an immediate role that I could fill, but the hiring manager wanted me to stay with the Fed, so they wrote a proposal to hire me as an associate examiner in Los Angeles.
How did you balance your studies at USC with the demands of the Fed?
I had three jobs at the time, actually. I come from a lower-income background, so when I applied for college, I took out loans and knew I would have to work through school. During my freshman year, I was fortunate to have been nominated for an inaugural scholarship fund established by the Gates Foundation, which helped fully pay for my tuition at USC.
While I had several jobs (at the Staples Center and on campus) as a student, I also knew I needed internships. So, I interned at Merrill Lynch, which was unpaid, along with the SF Fed during my junior and senior years. The Fed was super attractive to me because they paid $11 an hour at the time. In addition, they gave me my own workstation, free parking, and an email address—combined with the fact that it was a paid internship, what more could I ask for? I was sold on the Fed from Day 1!
What has been your most memorable role or exam throughout your early career?
The most memorable part of my career was when I was an examiner. When I started, I traveled to many of our District’s states and saw communities I’d never experienced. My first travel job was to Casa Grande, Arizona, I spent over six weeks on multiple exams in Las Vegas, and I even had assignments that took me to Hawaii and China.
During those years, I built very strong relationships with my fellow examiners. There were times when I saw them more than any family or friends in my personal life, but I loved it. One of the cool things about the examiner job is that very early in our careers, we are in positions that require us to speak to Bank directors and chief executives about issues with their bank. As a result, I gained a lot of confidence in public speaking but also learned from the many mistakes I made.
Who have been your mentors as you’ve assumed different leadership roles?
My manager was Donna Balcer when I first started. She is the most nurturing, caring person. She was the ideal training manager and has always helped me feel the warm culture of the Fed. We support each other here, and we look out for each other. She is a strong supervisor, and I admire her for that. I look up to her on how to train and mentor people.
What attracted you to your new SVP role?
When you look at my career progression, my first 15 years were relatively narrow in a single area of supervision. I was a community bank examiner, community bank manager, and director of our community bank portfolio, but then I went on to other leadership roles within Supervision + Credit. Yet, I think of myself as a homegrown examiner. When people ask me what I do, I say I am a bank supervisor. I am proud of it. One of my proudest career moments was when I became a commissioned examiner.
That’s why I’m so excited about my latest job—I’m excited to return to my roots. It’s the best of both worlds for me: leadership and portfolio supervision. It’s been my dream job for a long time. So, when this opportunity came up, I thought there was no reason I should not go for it.
What kind of impact do you want to make in your new role?
I want everyone in the group to feel proud of their accomplishments and happy in their job because they love the work and their team. I think we all already feel that way to a certain extent, but over time, things tend to chip away at that feeling, whether it’s barriers or something else that may be external to our work. So, I believe I can help refocus our attention on our work being meaningful, challenging, and exciting—because it is.
What has kept you at the SF Fed and in Supervision for such a long time?
I stay because I like the people. I feel that our culture—where people are proud of what they do—is impactful. The environment is so encouraging, and I want to be a part of that. I’m surrounded by people who are committed to what they do, and we treat each other like family. Over the years, I’ve celebrated numerous personal milestones with my colleagues–first homes, weddings, baby showers, big birthdays, and retirements—I’ve even traveled to the Philippines to be part of my colleague’s wedding.
Where do you see the future of Supervision headed?
We are in a very exciting phase for Supervision. There has been a clear expansion to our core work in recent years—a non-financial risk evolution. It’s not making our traditional work any less important but challenging us to expand our knowledge with new skills. I think it’s best summarized by how flexible our supervisory managers must now be–in any given day, their work ranges from training examiners how to assess risks of a traditional community bank to helping their team members identify the risks of an entity that has ambitious aspirations for digital banking expansion or fintech partnerships. We should all welcome this evolution as a good thing, not a stressful one. The future is a lot of learning for all of us and taking on these new challenges will only make our work that much more exciting.