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FEATURE STORY
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On the come-back

Banks are beginning to experience growth, and a few are logging some impressive figures.

BY WILLIAM LOBDELLPublished: February 14, 2011 10:29 AM

Photo by Roman Levin – Fotolia
Despite tight lending conditions, a reduced pool of financially sound borrowers and the destructive wake of a burst housing bubble, several Orange County-based banks have recently recorded spectacular growth by taking different paths to success.
    
“There’s a lot of optimism for the community banks in Orange County,” says David Haithcock, executive director for the Newport Beach-based California Independent Bankers. “I think primarily the worst is behind us. As the business community continues to get reinvigorated, so too will the banks.”
    
Larger institutions have experienced growth as well – albeit a bit more modestly. Orange County’s largest 25 local banks reportedly grew assets by a combined $300 million – about 4 percent – during the 12 months starting in June 2009. And the outlook for this year is promising.
    
“We expect consumer credit to begin expanding modestly this year as credit demand gradually returns, credit quality continues to improve, and bank credit standards and terms stabilize and even loosen a bit in some areas,” says Wells Fargo Senior Economist Scott Anderson. “Larger institutions appear in a better position to grow loans this year.”
    
Local banks, however, credit their head start on growth to recruiting top executives with established client bases, offering highly personalized service and refraining from making real estate-related loans.

Here’s a snapshot of three of those banks.

California Republic Bank

Sunwest Bank

First Foundation Bank