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OC Banks See Assets Surge 31% to $44.8 Billion

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Assets at Orange County-based banks soared 31% as they benefitted from new clients brought on by the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help small business survive during the shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

“The big national banks were turning their customers away and not providing PPP loans,” said Carson Lappetito, president of Irvine-based Sunwest Bank. “A lot of banks decided to slow down, shut down during the pandemic. We benefitted from that by taking care of thousands of clients.”  

Sunwest reported its assets rose 47% to $2 billion as it moved from No. 6 to No. 4 on this week’s list.  

The Business Journal’s annual list of commercial banks showed assets increasing to $44.8 billion at the end of June. Sixteen banks made the list, down from 18 on last year’s list and 25 from a decade ago.

Despite the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates and thus reducing profits at the banks, only five reported a loss for the first half of this year. The two biggest losses by far were $65 million at No. 1 Pacific Premier Bank of Irvine and $17.5 million at No. 2 Banc of California of Santa Ana.

The local banks boosted their OC headcount by 14% to 2,015.

Notable:

• Irvine-based Commercial Bank of California reported its assets jumped 46% to $1.4 billion.

The PPP gave the bank the opportunity to meet new customers as larger banks didn’t respond quickly to the governments program, Chief Executive Ash Patel said.

Larger banks weren’t even accepting applications in the first 15 days, he said. By contrast, employees at his bank were working 12 hours a day, seven days a week to fulfill the demand, he said.

“It was all hands-on deck,” he said. “We were quick.”

About half of the growth was organic while the other half was attributed to the PPP loans.

“Those relationships equated into new banking relationships,” he said.  

The bank’s assets have steadily climbed from $200 million in 2013 when Patel took the CEO position.

• CommerceWest Bank reported assets were up 56% to $912 million.

“At the time when the pandemic occurred, we realized we wanted to be there for our clients,” founder and Chief Executive Ivo Tjan. “We also saw the opportunity with PPP loans. Our employees knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

• Pacific Premier Bank solidified its top ranking by increasing assets 74% to $20.5 billion.

The Irvine-based bank in June completed its acquisition of crosstown rival Opus Bank, which brought almost $8 billion in assets. Much of its losses last year were due to write-offs pertaining to the Opus acquisition.

• The next largest jump came at Santa Ana-based Infinity Bank, where assets jumped 70% to $180 million. The bank was begun in 2018 by Bala Balkrishna, who is well known in OC banking circles for the past two decades.

• Another new bank, Nano Banc, which also was founded in 2018, reported assets increased 56% to $1.1 billion. The Irvine-based bank said it doesn’t invest in “the more common brick and mortar approach” and that its technology permits it to deliver products “without the steep price tag.”

• Banc of California reported a 17% decline in assets to $7.75 billion as Chief Executive Jared Wolff continued to purposely shed its less profitable areas.

Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.

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