Sanwa Bank California has made three key hires for its wealth management unit in a growth plan that includes the opening of a San Francisco office soon and expansion into San Jose by yearend.

The $9.2 million-asset Los Angeles bank, a subsidiary of Tokyo's Sanwa Bank Ltd., last week promoted John Brennan to vice president of the wealth management unit's personal finance service department, a newly created position, from vice president of its Oakland financial center. That followed the hiring of two full-time consultants, Ray Garnica and Jerry Verdi.

Becky C. Shelton, executive vice president of the 18-month-old wealth management division, which has $3 billion of assets under management, said the new sales-force hires are only the first step in her expansion initiative. The San Francisco office is to open this quarter and more consultants - for Fresno and Sacramento - are to be hired next quarter. She hopes to increase the six-member consultant team to 14 by yearend.

Ms. Shelton was named to head the division shortly after it was created. At first she built it from within, leveraging from Sanwa Bank California's retail base and integrating the sales and marketing of investment products.

Now, "we need a dedicated statewide staff," she said. "We must work in the communities of the clients we are targeting, and make it easier for clients in those communities to access our financial management services."

Mr. Verdi, who was a retirement planning adviser at Charles Schwab, will prospect in the Inland Valley towns of Rosemead, Covina, Chino, Rancho Cucamonga, and Pico Rivera. Mr. Garnica, who was vice president of business development at Ionus.com, a San Diego start-up, will work in and around San Diego. Both these regions are new wealth management territory for Sanwa Bank California.

"We can't just go forward anymore in markets where we already have a presence," Ms. Shelton said. "We have to build on what we have done."

Mr. Brennan will provide customized credit solutions and address all clients' liquidity, credit, investment management, trust, and financial planning needs.

Burton Greenwald, a Philadelphia wealth management analyst, said: "Too often you see banks and brokers trying to do everything all at once. But, considering their retail base," Sanwa "made the right move - start local and stretch from there, slowly, market to market."

Sanwa says it intends to stay on this course.

"We don't want to give ourselves unrealistic goals and then be left chasing them," Ms. Shelton said. "We have tremendous growth ahead of us in the next three to five years, but we need the sales resources to make it happen."


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