Christina Kitchens

Christina Kitchens ('99, '05 M.B.A.) (Photo by Michael Clements)Growing up in a West Texas oil family, Christina Kitchens ('99, '05 M.B.A.) says an oil and gas career was the last thing she was interested in as a young adult.

"We went through the downturn in the 1980s. Things were bad in the industry and many found themselves out of a job," she says. "Having experienced the cycles of the business, my family often told my brother and me to do anything but oil and gas."

But life had other plans for Kitchens, who's now the fourth generation of her family to go into the field.

She started her career in the Xerox finance department as a student and worked her way up. She finished a bachelor's degree in psychology at UNT, focused on performance management, and earned an M.B.A. in strategic management.

In 2001, she'd nearly passed up an opportunity to work in Citigroup's credit and energy finance division. A Citibank mentor encouraged her to reconsider.

The experience she then had in finance coupled with know-how that comes from growing up in oil country made her a great fit. Her career "took off" at Citibank, where she assisted with oil and gas lending and the integration of First American Bank, a newly acquired Texas bank, in the mid-2000s.

"I was in charge of many energy-related and integration projects, setting up energy portfolio management and moving products to the Texas marketplace," she says.

She stayed with Citibank for eight years and then continued to advance in her career by building out groups at Sovereign Bank, F&M Bank and CTB Energy Finance.

She landed with East West Bank, based in Pasadena, California, in 2015. One of the 25 largest public banks in the nation, it is consistently named a Top 15 on Forbes' list of 100 Best Banks in America.

The bank tapped Kitchens, as group managing director of energy finance, to expand its Texas foot­print in commercial lending by launching a national energy finance platform.

"This was an opportunity to give this bank energy exposure going into the recent downturn," says Kitchens, whose accolades include being named to The Dallas 500, D-CEO's list of the most powerful DFW business leaders. She also was named one of the Top 20 people under age 40 in energy by Oil and Gas Investor and recognized in Who's Who in Energy by the Dallas Business Journal.

East West is the third bank for which she's built an energy division.

"The energy industry is so very important," Kitchens says. "When people think about oil and gas, they often think about putting fuel in their tanks and the big companies of the world such as Exxon. They don't think about the independent and mom-and-pop energy providers or advancements on the tech side."

Her experience in the UNT College of Business' Professional Leadership Program led her to make a difference for others.

"That program pushed me and was the seed for me launching the Women's Employee Network Program at Citibank," says Kitchens, also a founding member of the Women's Energy Network and the Texas Energy Update.

"I wanted to provide a conduit to support and attract more women to the industry," she says. "Everything is better with diversity of experiences and people who know how to bring different people -- and therefore different perspectives -- to the table."

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