Aiming to capture a larger share of the business loan market, Greater Bay Bancorp has raided the executive offices of two larger rivals.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company recently hired key executives from Imperial Bancorp and Bank of the West to start up its international trade and corporate finance units.

David L. Kalkbrenner, president and chief executive officer, said the new divisions are part of Greater Bay's strategy to protect itself against narrowing interest rate margins. The $1.5 billion-asset company is also pushing to make larger loans in the $3 million to $6 million range.

"We've been able to attract high-quality experienced people," Mr. Kalkbrenner said. "This is a great opportunity for us. ... It will give us a head start against thinning spreads."

The new arrivals-Anthony Oriti, Dale Kobsar, and Michael Benito-bring over-stuffed Rolodexes and more than 60 years' experience to fast-growing Greater Bay.

Mr. Oriti was responsible for starting Los Angeles-based Imperial's Northern California international division in 1989, and Mr. Kobsar formed the structured finance unit at San Francisco's Bank of the West in 1995. They will do the same for Greater Bay.

Mr. Benito also jumped ship at Imperial, taking four employees with him. He will be responsible for cultivating middle-market loans in Santa Clara, where Greater Bay seeks to build a new office.

Mr. Oriti and Mr. Kobsar both said the opportunity to start over again attracted them to Greater Bay. Mr. Benito could not be reached for comment. "The strategic direction of Greater Bay had an appealing tone," Mr. Oriti said.

Analysts are bullish on Greater Bay, a four-bank holding company formed in November 1996 after the merger of equals between Palo Alto's Mid- Peninsula Bank and Cupertino (Calif.) National Bank.

The company, whose stock has posted a 41% return since Jan. 1, has acquired San Francisco's Golden Gate Bank and Peninsula Bank of Commerce, Millbrae, Calif., since the merger.

By launching two lending divisions, Greater Bay "is demonstrating other ways to grow the franchise without making an acquisition," said Joseph R. Morford, an analyst with Van Kasper & Co. in San Francisco. "They're building an attractive operation that is gaining momentum."

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