Published by Pacific Coast Business Times on July 14, 2017

American Riviera Bank Sets Sights on Paso Robles

American Riviera Bank is making a jump into the San Luis Obispo County market, opening a loan production office in Paso Robles with additional branches planned to fill in the territory north of its Santa Barbara base.

The Paso Robles office will open next month, and it will be located at 205 Oak Hill Road in The Highlands Shopping Center. It will offer a suite of real estate, agriculture, residential mortgage, construction and SBA-guaranteed loans.

American Riviera, one of four remaining independent community banks based in the Tri-Counties, said the office will be replaced by a full-service branch by early 2018 and that it “expects to open more branches between Santa Barbara and Paso Robles in the future.”

This is the second time in less than a year that an area bank targeted SLO County for expansion, after the region’s largest bank, Heritage Oaks, was acquired by Orange County-based Pacific Premier. Earlier, Community West Bank, based in Goleta, opened a branch in San Luis Obispo near the fast-growing regional airport.

To staff its Paso Robles office, American Riviera has hired a team of former Heritage Oaks employees with Neil Amarante to serve as senior vice president and regional credit manager. Ann Cochrane will be vice president for commercial and ag banking and Paul Tognazzini will serve as community relationship officer.

“In the last five years, San Luis Obispo County lost all of its community banks to mergers,” said Jeff DeVine, American Riviera’s president and CEO. In the region, the four remaining independent banks include Montecito Bank & Trust, the largest, followed by Community West, based in Goleta, American Riviera and Community Bank of Santa Maria.

In a phone interview, Cochrane said the bank expected lending to be a mix of commercial and ag loans plus some owner-occupied residential financings.

“Homes on a few acres don’t fit into a box for single family home financings” from larger institutions, she said. She also said she expects some interest in SBA-guaranteed loans, where 20-year fixed rate financing is an attractive option.

American Riviera had assets of $467 million as of March 31 and currently operates branches in Montecito, Santa Barbara and Goleta.

Net income jumped to $956,000 or 22 cents per share in the first quarter from $142,000 or four cents a year earlier. Its shares, traded on the OTC market, closed unchanged on July 11 at $16.95.