Officers & Directors

Senior Management

Steven R. Gardner
Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Premier Bancorp
Steven R. Gardner serves as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Premier Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ: PPBI) and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of its primary operating subsidiary Pacific Premier Bank, a commercial bank with approximately $11.6 billion in assets headquartered in Irvine, California. With over 45 depository branches serving Southern California, the Central Coast of California, and markets in the states of Nevada, Arizona and Washington, Pacific Premier Bank offers a diverse range of products and services for small and middle market businesses, commercial clients, non-profit organizations and retail clients, as well as specialty banking products for homeowners associations and franchise lending nationwide.

Since assuming the role of President and CEO in 2000, Mr. Gardner has transitioned Pacific Premier Bank from a troubled savings and loan association to a full-service commercial bank. Under Mr. Gardner’s leadership, Pacific Premier has been recognized as one of the top performing banks in the United States by SNL Financial, Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P., U.S. Banker, Raymond James & Associates and the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Mr. Gardner has more than 30 years of experience as a commercial banking executive. He has extensive knowledge of all facets of financial institution management. Having completed 11 acquisitions of whole banks, specialty finance lines of business and FDIC failed banks; Mr. Gardner is an expert in all areas of mergers and acquisitions as well as capital market transactions. Prior to joining the Company, he was an executive officer of Hawthorne Financial Corporation since 1997, responsible for all credit administration and portfolio management. He has served in senior management positions at both commercial banks and thrift institutions.

Mr. Gardner has served in various high-level roles in trade associations and organizations that serve the banking industry. Mr. Gardner has served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco since January 2013. Mr. Gardner formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and was the Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. Mr. Gardner previously served as the Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council, as a director and a member of the Executive Committee of the Independent Community Bankers of America (“ICBA”), and as a director of ICBA Holding Company and ICBA Securities, a registered broker-dealer. Mr. Gardner holds a B.A. from California State University, Fullerton and attended graduate school at California State University, Long Beach.

Ronald J. Nicolas, Jr.
Sr. Executive VP, Chief Financial Officer of Pacific Premier Bancorp, Inc. and Pacific Premier Bank
Ronald J. Nicolas, Jr. Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of the Company and the Bank, was hired in May 2016. Mr. Nicolas serves as Chairman of the Bank’s Asset Liability Committee. Prior to joining the Company and Bank, Mr. Nicolas served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at each of: Banc of California (2012-2016); Carrington Holding Company, LLC (2009-2012); Residential Credit Holdings, LLC (2008-2009); Fremont Investment and Loan (2005-2008); and Aames Investment/Financial Corp. (2001-2005). Earlier in his career, Mr. Nicolas served in various capacities with KeyCorp, a $60-billion financial institution, including Executive Vice President Group Finance of KeyCorp (1998-2001), Executive Vice President, Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer of KeyBank USA (1994-1998), and Vice President of Corporate Treasury (1993-1994). Before joining KeyCorp, he spent eight years at HSBC-Marine Midland Banks in a variety of financial and accounting roles. Mr. Nicolas obtained his B.S. degree in Finance and his Master’s in Business Administration from Canisius College.

Board of Directors

Steven R. Gardner
Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Premier Bancorp
Steven R. Gardner serves as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Premier Bancorp, Inc. (NASDAQ: PPBI) and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of its primary operating subsidiary Pacific Premier Bank, a commercial bank with approximately $11.6 billion in assets headquartered in Irvine, California. With over 45 depository branches serving Southern California, the Central Coast of California, and markets in the states of Nevada, Arizona and Washington, Pacific Premier Bank offers a diverse range of products and services for small and middle market businesses, commercial clients, non-profit organizations and retail clients, as well as specialty banking products for homeowners associations and franchise lending nationwide.

Since assuming the role of President and CEO in 2000, Mr. Gardner has transitioned Pacific Premier Bank from a troubled savings and loan association to a full-service commercial bank. Under Mr. Gardner’s leadership, Pacific Premier has been recognized as one of the top performing banks in the United States by SNL Financial, Sandler O’Neill + Partners, L.P., U.S. Banker, Raymond James & Associates and the Independent Community Bankers of America.

Mr. Gardner has more than 30 years of experience as a commercial banking executive. He has extensive knowledge of all facets of financial institution management. Having completed 11 acquisitions of whole banks, specialty finance lines of business and FDIC failed banks; Mr. Gardner is an expert in all areas of mergers and acquisitions as well as capital market transactions. Prior to joining the Company, he was an executive officer of Hawthorne Financial Corporation since 1997, responsible for all credit administration and portfolio management. He has served in senior management positions at both commercial banks and thrift institutions.

Mr. Gardner has served in various high-level roles in trade associations and organizations that serve the banking industry. Mr. Gardner has served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco since January 2013. Mr. Gardner formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, and was the Chairman of the Finance Committee of the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco. Mr. Gardner previously served as the Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council, as a director and a member of the Executive Committee of the Independent Community Bankers of America (“ICBA”), and as a director of ICBA Holding Company and ICBA Securities, a registered broker-dealer. Mr. Gardner holds a B.A. from California State University, Fullerton and attended graduate school at California State University, Long Beach.

Jeff C. Jones
Lead Director
Jeff C. Jones has served as a member of the Company’s Board since July 2006, served as Chairman of the Board from August 2012 through June 2016, and currently serves as the lead independent director. Mr. Jones is the current Managing Partner and current Executive Committee member of, and partner in, the regional accounting firm Frazer, LLP, which he has been with since 1977. Mr. Jones has over 30 years of experience in servicing small and medium sized business clients primarily within the real estate, construction, and agricultural industries. Mr. Jones is a past president of Inland Exchange, Inc., an accommodator corporation, and has served on the Board of Directors of Moore Stephens North America, Inc. Mr. Jones holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, and a Masters of Business Taxation from Golden Gate University. Mr. Jones is a CPA in California, is licensed as a life insurance agent and holds a Series 7 securities license.
John J. Carona Sr.
John Carona was appointed to the Board of Directors on March 15, 2013, in connection with the Company’s acquisition of First Associations Bank (“FAB”), a Dallas, Texas-based state chartered bank. Mr. Carona served as a director of FAB since its inception in 2007. Mr. Carona is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Associations, Inc. (“Associa”), a Texas corporation that specializes in providing management and related services for homeowners associations (“HOAs”) located across the United States. Mr. Carona was a six term Senator in the State of Texas from 1990 to 2014, where he represented District 16 in Dallas County. Previously, Mr. Carona was elected to three terms in the Texas House of Representatives. Mr. Carona served as Chairman of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, Joint Chairman of the Legislative Oversight Board on Windstorm Insurance and as Co-Chairman of the Joint Interim Committee to Study Seacoast Territory Insurance. He also served as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting and the Senate Criminal Justice, Education and Jurisprudence committees. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. Senator Carona received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in insurance and real estate from The University of Texas at Austin in 1978.
Ayad A. Fargo
Ayad A. Fargo was appointed to the Board of Directors on January 31, 2016, in connection with the Company's acquisition of Security California Bancorp, a California corporation ('SCAF') and the parent company of Security Bank of California, a Riverside, California based state chartered bank ('SBOC'). Mr. Fargo has served as the President of Biscomerica Corporation, a food manufacturing company based in Rialto, California, since 1984. Prior to joining the Company's and the Bank's boards of directors, Mr. Fargo served as a director of SCAF and SBOC since 2005. Mr. Fargo received his B.S. from Walla Walla University.
Joseph L. Garrett
Joseph L. Garrett has served as a director of the Company and the Bank since 2012. Mr. Garrett was the President, Chief Executive Officer, a member and Chairman of the Board of Directors for both American Liberty Bank and Sequoia National Bank. He also served as a member of the Board of Directors for Hamilton Savings Bank. Since 2003, Mr. Garrett has been a principal at Garrett, McAuley & Co., which provides mortgage banking advisory services to commercial banks, thrifts, and mortgage banking companies. He served on the California State Controller’s Advisory Commission on Public Employee Retirement Systems and currently serves on the National Advisory Council for the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California (Berkeley). Mr. Garrett received his A.B. and M.B.A. from the University of California (Berkeley) and his M.A. from the University of Washington (Seattle).
Jaynie Miller Studenmund
Jaynie Miller Studenmund was appointed as a director of the Company and of the Bank effective May 22, 2019. Ms. Studenmund is a seasoned independent director who brings significant executive experience across a number of industries, including financial services, digital, health care and consumer businesses. Ms. Studenmund served as a banking executive for 20 years, serving as Executive Vice President and head of retail banking at Great Western Bank and Home Savings of America (now part of JP Morgan Chase) and as Executive Vice President, head of retail banking and Chief Marketing Officer at First Interstate Bank of California (now part of Wells Fargo). Ms. Studenmund also has served as President and Chief Operating Officer for PayMyBills.com and Chief Operating Officer of Overture Services. Ms. Studenmund began her career as a management consultant with Booz, Allen & Hamilton. Ms. Studenmund is currently on the Boards of CoreLogic, ExlService Holdings, Inc. and select funds for Western Asset Management. She serves as a life trustee and board chair for Huntington Hospital, a member of the Board of Flintridge Preparatory School and is a co-founder and executive committee member for the Enduring Heroes Foundation. She received a masters in business administration from Harvard Business School and is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wellesley College. Ms. Studenmund is a NACD Board Leadership Fellow.
M. Christian Mitchell
M. Christian Mitchell was appointed as a director of the Company and the Bank effective July 1, 2018, in connection with the Company’s acquisition of Grandpoint Capital, Inc. and its subsidiary Grandpoint Bank. Mr. Mitchell is a retired Deloitte senior partner, where he served as the national managing partner for the firm’s Mortgage Banking/Finance Companies practice and was a founding member of the board of directors of Deloitte Consulting USA, among other leadership roles.

Prior to the acquisition of Grandpoint, Mr. Mitchell served as Lead Independent Director and chaired the Audit and Risk Committees for Grandpoint Capital, Inc. He currently serves as Lead Independent Director of Western Asset Mortgage Capital Corporation (NYSE: WMC), a public mortgage REIT, where he chairs the Audit Committee and serves on the Compensation, Nominating and Corporate Governance and Risk Committees. He chairs the Audit Committee and serves on the Nominating and Corporate Governance and Executive Committees at Parsons Corporation (NYSE: PSN), a public engineering, construction, technical and professional services firm. In addition, Mr. Mitchell serves as a director of several private companies, including Marshall & Stevens, Inc., a Los Angeles-based national financial valuation and advisory firm, where he serves as Vice Chairman; and Stearns Holdings, LLC, a national independent mortgage company.

Mr. Mitchell is Chairman Emeritus of the National Association of Corporate Directors, Pacific Southwest Chapter, and in 2017 was elected to the organization’s national board of directors. He is also a director of Huntington Hospital, a non-profit where he serves as Vice Chair of the Audit Committee and sits on the Finance and Strategic Committees. Mr. Mitchell taught as an adjunct Accounting Professor at the University of Redlands from 2006 through May 2010 and a guest lecturer from 2010 to 2017. In 2011 and 2012, Directorship magazine named Mr. Mitchell to the “100 Most Influential People in Corporate Governance” list. Mr. Mitchell earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting from the University of Alabama, graduating summa cum laude.
Michael J. Morris
Michael J. Morris was appointed as a director of the Company and of the Bank effective April 1, 2017, in connection with the Company’s acquisition of Heritage Oaks Bancorp and its subsidiary Heritage Oaks Bank. Mr. Morris is an attorney and serves as Chairman of the Board of the law firm of Andre, Morris & Buttery. He has been a member of the Board of Directors of NioCorp, a publicly held company traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange, since 2014. He has served as a member and chairman of various non-profit boards of directors. He has practiced law in California for over 40 years, during which he has represented a broad array of corporate and individual clients. Prior to joining the Board and the Bank Board, Mr. Morris was a director of Heritage Oaks Bancorp and of Heritage Oaks Bank beginning in January of 2001 and served as the Chairman of Heritage Oaks Bancorp and Heritage Oaks Bank beginning in May of 2007. Mr. Morris received his B.A. from Georgetown University and his J.D. from the University of San Francisco School of Law.
Barbara S. Polsky
Barbara S. Polsky was appointed as a director of the Company and of the Bank effective May 22, 2019. Ms. Polsky is a partner at the law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP in Los Angeles. Ms. Polsky has extensive experience representing numerous domestic and foreign banks, financial holding companies, savings associations, mortgage, other specialty finance and financial technology companies in a wide range of lending and securities transactions, mergers and acquisitions, governance and regulatory and compliance matters. Previously, Ms. Polsky served as Executive Vice President and General Counsel of City National Corporation and City National Bank and Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Aames Financial Corporation and Aames Home Loan. Ms. Polsky frequently lectures at investment banking and commercial banking seminars on mergers and acquisitions, bank capital augmentation and compliance matters. She also serves as a director of ConnexPay LLC. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School, and earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan.
Zareh H. Sarrafian
Zareh H. Sarrafian was appointed to the Company’s Board and the Bank’s Board on January 31, 2016, in connection with the Company’s acquisition of Security California Bancorp and its subsidiary Security Bank of California. Mr. Sarrafian has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Riverside, California since 2014. Prior to that, Mr. Sarrafian served as Chief Administrative Officer at Loma Linda Medical Center in Loma Linda, California since 1998. Prior to joining the Company’s and the Bank’s boards of directors, Mr. Sarrafian served as a director of Security California Bancorp and Security Bank of California since 2005. Mr. Sarrafian received his B.S. from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and his M.B.A. from California State University, San Bernardino. Mr. Sarrafian has served as a member of the Board of Directors of Switch, Inc. since its formation and serves as a member of its Audit and Governance Committees.
Cora M. Tellez
Cora M. Tellez has served as a director of the Company and Bank since October 2015. Ms. Tellez has served as the Chief Executive Officer and President of both Sterling Health Services Administration, Inc. and Sterling Self Insurance Administration since founding the companies in 2003 and 2010, respectively. Ms. Tellez previously served as the President of the health plans division of Health Net, Inc., an insurance provider that operated in seven states. She also has served as President of Prudential‘s western healthcare operations, Chief Executive Officer of Blue Shield of California, Bay Region, and Regional Manager for Kaiser Permanente of Hawaii. Ms. Tellez serves on the board of directors of HMS Holdings, Inc., (“HMS”), and previously was a director of CorMedix. For HMS, Ms. Tellez chairs the Nominating and Governance Committee and serves on the Audit and Compensation Committees. She also serves on several nonprofit organizations such as the Institute for Medical Quality and UC San Diego’s Center for Integrative Medicine. Ms. Tellez received her B.A. from Mills College and her M.S. in public administration from California State University, Hayward.