James Christensen

James Christensen is the president of Gateway Bank, the only community bank in Mesa, Arizona. Under his leadership, Gateway has thrived through multiple economic downturns and is consistently one of the strongest-performing financial institutions in its peer group.

Christensen has worked in the banking industry for more than 36 years, mostly in commercial lending and management. Hailing from the Midwest, he was president of a community bank in Kansas for a decade before joining Gateway’s founding team in 2007.

Christensen’s Midwestern values shaped Gateway’s culture from the beginning. In an age when very few people like their bank, he and his founding team set out to create a new type of banking experience focused on people over profits. 

Christensen believes in hiring the best people and taking care of them so they will take care of others. He envisioned building a hometown bank where each customer has a go-to banker who truly gets to know them, provides fast and personal service, and stays by their side through all seasons of life. This is what banking used to be like, and Christensen wanted to bring this nostalgic approach into modern times. 

Fifteen years, two major recessions and many industry changes later, Gateway is the only local bank in Mesa left standing and has earned a reputation as one of the best banks in the Valley. BauerFinancial has named Gateway a 5-star bank (one of the strongest in the nation) for more than 12 years in a row, and DepositAccounts.com recently awarded the bank an A+ rating for financial health and stability. 

While these accolades are a source of pride, Christensen is most motivated by helping Gateway’s customers put more people to work and by making the community stronger. He enjoys partnering with local business owners as a member of their team, consulting with them and getting creative to develop solutions that work for them. Gateway has become one of the highest-performing and most popular banks in the Valley because of its people and relationships. To Christensen, that’s the best award of all. 

Inside and outside of Gateway, Christensen is very active in the local community, a champion for small businesses, and a fierce advocate for people who have been marginalized. He is currently on the board and/or committees for several Valley organizations, including Local First Arizona, Mesa Chamber of Commerce, Mesa Financial Network and United Food Bank. Christensen has also become a sought-after speaker about banking, leadership and doing business for good. Through all his community involvement, he hopes to educate and inspire diverse audiences to improve their financial health and overall well-being.  

Gateway is not a typical bank, and Christensen is not a typical banker. He sports a goatee, regularly walks into work dancing to hip hop and recently added some tattoos under his golf shirt. Although neither looks nor musical taste lead to “Excellence in Banking,” Christensen believes his success is a result of staying true to what’s most important to him: authenticity and relationships. 


Banker of Excellence: James Christensen
Position: President and CEO
Company Name: Gateway Bank
Main Local Office Address: 6860 E. Warner Rd., Mesa, AZ 85212
Phone: (480) 358-1000
Website: gcbaz.com
Number of Offices in Metro Phoenix: 1
Year Established Locally: 2007
Headquartered: Mesa, AZ
No. of Years with Firm: 15
Industry Expertise: Commercial Lending, Business Accounts, Cash Management, Personal Banking and Lending 

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