In 1982, on the same day I opened a bank account on my first day at a university in upstate New York, an ATM was installed at the branch. Since I had anxieties about having to interact with strangers in a bank where nobody knew me, the ATM felt as it had been invented for me. And up until a few years back, I continued my usual pattern, doing all of my transactions with the machine on the corner of State Street and Figueroa.
Then one day it was out of service, and I had to walk into the actual building. I was greeted by a very warm , almost surreally happy, exotic-looking lady shouting, “Hello, Roger. How are you today?” The rest of the employees took a cue from her and saluted me as well. I quickly learned that this type of reception wasn’t reserved just for me — it’s done for everyone who comes in through the doors of that bank.
To say that Business First Bank’s Bibi Moezzi, whose official title is relationship manager, is personable and welcoming is an understatement. She has a nurturing quality about her, giving you a sense of reassurance that whatever your issue is, she’ll take care of it. She’s the owner of one of the heartiest laughs you’ll ever hear, and the sound makes even the gloomiest of days dissipate.
She was born and raised in Tehran, Iran, where she got a degree in chemical engineering. Bibi moved to Santa Barbara many years ago, and keeps herself busy outside of work by serving on varied boards, including the Boys & Girls Club and Old Spanish Days, among others.
Since that fateful day, I really haven’t used an ATM in our city much, but my visits with Bibi and her co-workers have become a weekly thing.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
It was so good to see you. I mean it when I say it, but I say it at least 20 times a day!
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I came to America 14 years ago with little to no English, started from scratch, and worked my way up to where I am today. I would have not been able to achieve any of it, if it wasn’t because of the people who mentored and helped me along the way — from my cousin Ladan Amirsoleymani, who taught me how to write my first check and use the ATM, to my first banking boss Barbara Caballero-Munoz, who taught me the ABCs of loan business, and last but not least, my current boss Joanne Funari, who recognized something in me that I couldn’t see at the time and for giving me the opportunities to grow. It took a village.
What is your idea of perfect happiness in Santa Barbara?
Nightly walks with my husband by the beach.
Who do you most admire?
My mother. She is the wisest woman I know. She is elegant and well educated. She had a great career, made very smart investments, raised two kids, and always showed a tremendous respect to my father. She is the reason my brother and I ended up in America, the land of opportunity! Her vision and her wisdom always worked to our benefit. You can talk to her about any subject and she will be able to carry an intelligent conversation with you. She speaks three to four languages!
What is your greatest extravagance?
What is your current state of mind?
What is the quality you most like in people?
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
What do you most value in friends?
What do you enjoy doing most?
Hosting guests and watching them experience Persian food.
What is your most marked characteristic?
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Have a better work/life balance.
Where would you most like to live?
I am happy where I am, the beautiful Santa Barbara, but I wouldn’t mind living on the Riviera.
What is your most treasured possession?
My wedding ring, not for the price value of it, but for what it symbolizes.
Who makes you laugh the most?
What is it you like about your job the most?
The family-like bond I have with my coworkers and the friendships I have built with my clients.
What is your motto?
Everything happens for a reason.