When she launched her career as a certified public accountant (CPA), Ruth Christopher wasn’t necessarily envisioning a role at a community bank. But after a few years at a regional CPA firm, a partner encouraged her to apply as an internal auditor at one of their client banks, Citizens Bank of Las Cruces, N.M.

As it turns out, this move was the right one: Christopher became a long-term leader at the bank. Joining in 1983 as an internal auditor, she thrived over the course of her 40-year-career, excelling at positions from accounting to management to the c-suite, and eventually, serving as the bank’s chief financial officer (CFO).

“Over the time I have been here, the bank has grown significantly, from $80 million in assets to $1 billion today,” she shares. “It’s been so rewarding to have had the chance to work with one bank, contribute to building the culture, manage different changes, and create a high-performing organization. I’m blessed to have had that opportunity.”

ICBA Leadership

While Christopher recently retired from her CFO role, she continues to serve as a board member and secretary of Citizens Bank of Las Cruces’ holding company, Amador Bancshares Inc. And she’s thrilled to have taken on the role of ICBA Bancard Chairman.

Ruth Christopher is ICBA Bancard’s chairman and is a board member for Citizens Bank., a $971-million asset community bank in Las Cruces, N.M., and secretary of its holding company, Amador Bancshares Inc.

“I’m so honored that I was asked to serve as chairman of [ICBA Payments],” Christopher says. “I’m passionate about community banking, and this role gives me an opportunity to be involved at the industry-wide level.”

Christopher carries her expertise and enthusiasm to her newest role as she continues her advocacy on behalf of the industry she loves. She is past chairman of the Independent Community Bankers Association of New Mexico and currently serves as vice chairman of ICBA’s Bank Innovation and Solutions Committee.

Commitment to Team Growth

Not one to rest on her laurels, Christopher has extensive ideas and a work ethic to back them up, both personally and professionally. In fact, over the last few years, she’s taken up a hobby she never saw coming: Elite dog competition. Going from not being a “dog person” to entering the world of competitive agility and rally events with her Siberian Husky, Sitka, surprised both Christopher and her husband, John.

“Sitka’s the first dog I’ve ever trained. It took hours and hours of training and classes and building up skills,” she says. “The team effort between the handler and the dog is so important, and when you go out together and work as a team, it’s really rewarding.”

Not dissimilar to the path that led her to flourish at Citizens Bank of Las Cruces, Christopher worked hard and built a strong connection with Sitka, which has resulted in him becoming the number one American Kennel Club-ranked Siberian Husky in Rally Lifetime—a title he has held for the past three years.

An Enterprising Spirit

In addition to competing, Christopher loves bonding with her family and learning about the world through travel. Most recently, she, her husband, and her five sons and two daughters-in-law took a toured Europe—stopping in Venice, Switzerland, Germany and Amsterdam. True to her personality, the group took the road less traveled, hiking through small towns and getting a chance not only to experience major cities but more remote locations as well.

The spirit of curiosity and connection that inspires her personally stands to make her an ideal chairman. Because as she points out, payments are key to the future of community banking, and helping banks find that path forward is vital to their success.

“If we don’t take care of payments, we lose deposits, and if we don’t have deposits, we can’t make loans,” Christopher says. “We are stronger when we all work together, and ICBA Bancard provides valuable, affordable solutions that can benefit us all.”