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VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW

2 Young Local Banks Extending Their Roots With Branches

February 06, 1996|LEO SMITH | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Having established themselves in west Ventura County over the past decade, two local banking institutions plan to creep over the Conejo Grade by the end of this year.

So say Robert Zingg, president and chief executive of First National Bank of Ventura, and Edward Paul, his counterpart at Channel Islands National Bank.

"We're looking to open an additional loan production office in Thousand Oaks by the end of the first quarter," said Paul, whose 10-year-old institution has two branches in Oxnard and one in Camarillo. "We are looking to open up our opportunities along the business corridor from the Los Angeles County line to the Santa Barbara County line."

Meanwhile, officials at the 8-year-old First National Bank of Ventura have their sights set on a new branch office.

"We're looking at the east end of the county, possibly in Moorpark, for a secondary branch site in late 1996," Zingg said. First National Bank of Ventura currently has one branch, on Telegraph Road in Ventura.

The expansion plans are attempts to capitalize on sizable growth last year for each institution.

Channel Islands National Bank posted earnings of $600,004 in 1995, a 47% increase from $408,380 the previous year. First National Bank of Ventura reported earnings last year of $505,269, an increase of 121% from $228,955 a year prior.

Zingg attributed his bank's success to its Small Business Administration Program and the tidying up of its loan portfolio.

Beginning in 1994, he said, the bank began trimming its nonperforming, unpaid loans, and replacing them with good loans. The impact of these improvements, he said, was felt last year.

As for the SBA program, Zingg said First National Bank of Ventura made a concerted effort in 1995 to increase its loans to small- and medium-size businesses. The bank made a total of $11 million in loans last year, an increase of about 35% from 1994, Zingg said.

"We are trying to get known in the community for being a small-business lender. There are big banks that only want to deal with large clients. We are trying to fill the [small client] niche," he said. "Some people need counseling; some need direction."

At Channel Islands National Bank, a similar effort was made to increase the number of loans last year with the addition of two loan officers to the five in place. Another loan officer is likely to be added this year, Paul said, with the opening of a Thousand Oaks office.

"It was a very deliberate effort. We felt we had the capacity if we just had people out there talking with potential customers," Paul said. "There are business people out there willing to expand, willing to make capital investments. Sometimes our loan officers have to point out that there is money available to them."

By the end of last year, he said, 70% of all deposits at Channel Islands National Bank had gone into loans, up from 64% at the start of the year. Paul said the increase was significant because loans are higher yielding than other forms of investment.

"Predominantly they were business loans, in some cases real estate, some housing, quite a few consumer loans," he said. "And we did several loans to people building their dream houses."

In addition to increased loan activity, Paul attributed the success of 1995 to lower operating costs. "There was across-the-board belt-tightening," he said. "We were 2% below budget. It's amazing what 2% does."

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