Published on Noozhawk in Business on January 27, 2016.
By Gina Potthoff, Noozhawk Staff Writer
A large-scale meet-and-greet went on last week within the walls of the American Riviera Bank in downtown Santa Barbara, where employees of the former Bank of Santa Barbara settled into new digs.
The merger between the two community banks became official Jan. 1, but the Jan. 16-17 weekend marked moving day and consolidation of the downtown offices, both right next door on Figueroa Street between State and Anacapa streets.
Last week was also the first chance for customers of the respective banks to run into each other at the 1033 Anacapa St. headquarters, where American Riviera Bank has operated since 2006.
“We pretty much doubled overnight,” said Jeff DeVine, who has stayed on as CEO of American Riviera Bank. “It went surprisingly well.”
That’s thanks to some six months of preparation to combine efforts since the merger was announced in July 2015, he said.
With the union, American Riviera Bank becomes the second-largest community bank based in Santa Barbara with assets over $400 million and three South Coast branches.
American Riviera Bank already had a location at 525 San Ysidro Rd. in Montecito.
Bank of Santa Barbara, which opened in 2005 before being recapitalized by local investors in 2009, already had a Goleta branch at 5880 Calle Real.
Its former 12 E. Figueroa St. headquarters will be subleased to a yet-to-be-determined tenant.
Bank of Santa Barbara’s small business administration lending department complements American Riviera Bank’s mortgage department.
American Riviera Bank had the better online system, dedicated parking lot and two levels of offices. A Bank of Santa Barbara program inspired the partnership to add a two-vehicle courier fleet to ferry non-cash deposits.
What DeVine sees now is a manageable — and scalable — full-service community bank that can process two times the loans while splitting the cost of complying with ever-changing federal banking regulations.
“It’s really difficult for a small bank,” said DeVine, who sat down with Noozhawk this week to discuss the changes along with Joanne Funari, who went from interim CEO and COO of Bank of Santa Barbara to executive vice president and COO of the combined bank.
Both view the merger as an opportunity to serve more clients — many of them small business owners — without compromising on quality.
The two institutions went from a combined 78 employees to 62, 10 of which were displaced because of overlap and some who chose to leave prior to the merger, DeVine said.
With the overall bump, Funari said American Riviera Bank could hire a dedicated human resources director, IT professional and regional bank manager along with a loan and central services expansion.
“It’s a community bank feel,” Funari said.
“Small business people want to know their banker. Now we cover Goleta all the way to Montecito.”
A branding study helped the institutions pick the name after learning that American Riviera Bank had more potential for two reasons: it didn’t pigeonhole the bank to stay inside Santa Barbara or Santa Barbara County and it turned up fewer options under a Google search.
American Riviera Bank is also focused on toeing the line to cater to those who prefer to scan checks with their cell phones or ATMs as well as the old-school clients who still want to shake an associate’s hand.
It’s too soon to say when the bank might grow. Funari said the team is much more focused on making sure clients and employees are happy with and understand the changes, with potential to add more services as needed.