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Startup Ventana Bank to Target Market for Small, Medium Businesses

Don’t tell Bob Adkins this isn’t the best time to start up a bank in San Diego.

“From a banking standpoint, this (a slowing economy) acts as a benefit,” he said. “When we open our doors, we’ll have no bad loans or problems. We’re coming into a market where we’ll be looking to lend, while many banks are trying to resolve their problems. We think it’s more of an opportunity than a detriment.”

Adkins, former president and chief executive officer for Neighborhood National Bank, has been organizing the bank since April 2007. He filed an application with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency for a national bank charter in January.

Unlike other startups that have filed for charters in recent months, Adkins has larger ambitions.

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His group has formed a holding company and plans to open separate banks in Phoenix and Dallas next year.

The target opening for the local institution, Ventana National Bank of California, is September or early October.

Ventana is Spanish for window, but Adkins says the bank isn’t targeting Hispanics, but small to medium business customers, regardless of ethnicity.

Adkins, who has more than 30 years’ experience, says he didn’t want to reveal his board, which consists of 11 people. The bank’s founders group has 26 members, some of whom will become investors when the bank raises capital.

In terms of capital, Ventana National is also seeking between $20 million and $25 million, an ambitious amount, which would put it on the high end for recent startups. Manchester Financial Bank, in organization since the beginning of this year, has said it will raise $20 million, with $19 million coming from founder and mega-hotel developer Doug Manchester.

Adkins has hired two top executives: Karen Brassfield, chief financial officer, who is a former executive with The Corky McMillin Cos. and at San Diego National Bank, and Pamela Davis, chief credit officer, who held the same job at Neighborhood National Bank.

Should Ventana open this year, the bank will have company, with three other startups planning openings, too: Vibra Bank in Chula Vista; Gateway Pacific Bank in National City; and Manchester Financial in San Diego.

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First PacTrust Sees Problem Assets Rise:

First PacTrust Bancorp Inc., parent of Pacific Trust Bank in Chula Vista, reported net income of $1.2 million, up $128,000 from the year-ago quarter.

Assets at the nine-office savings bank as of March 31 were $797.5 million, up from $774.7 million for the like quarter a year ago, while loans were $742.5 million, up from $710 million.

Pacific Trust reported holding $18.4 million in problem assets, compared with only $5,000 for March 31, 2007. The ratio of problem loans to total assets was 2.31 percent, compared with 0.07 percent in the like quarter of 2007.

The bulk of the problem was from a single construction loan of $10 million the bank made along with another lender that has not been disclosed.

CEO Hans Ganz says he expects the real estate market to stabilize this summer and then improve in the latter part of the year.

The bank’s Nasdaq stock, listed under the symbol FPTB, rose by about 3 percent May 6, the day the financials were released, to $16.35, giving it a market capitalization of $71 million.

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Imperial Capital Sets Aside Big Number:

Stung by a surge of problem loans in its portfolio, Imperial Capital Bank, the region’s third largest bank, put aside $4.3 million into its loan loss provisions in the first quarter, effectively wiping out its profit for the period.

“Our first-quarter results, while clearly disappointing, reflect a continuation of the challenging economic conditions that currently exist,” said CEO George Haligowski.

Counting some $18 million in foreclosed real estate, Imperial Capital reported problem assets of $110 million, or 3.1 percent of the total of about $3.5 billion. That compared with $57.4 million in nonperforming assets at the end of 2007, or 1.62 percent of the total.

Lending has been slow.

The bank originated only $88.5 million in loans during the past quarter, compared with $339 million for the same quarter in 2007. Its loan portfolio shrunk to $3 billion, from about $3.1 billion at the end of December.

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Kelley Reappears With 1st Business Bank:

Jim Kelley, former CEO at Discovery Bancorp in San Marcos, has been named senior vice president at 1st Business Bank in Del Mar Heights. Kelley says he had been mulling working with a local bank in organization in the South Bay, but took this offer, which he described as a “player-coach,” helping on the loan production side.


Send any news about the local financial services industry to Mike Allen via e-mail at mallen@sdbj.com. He can be reached at (858) 277-6359.

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