The Temecula Valley Bank in Temecula, CA, was formed only about three-and-a-half years ago and already has a track record of superb profitability. It places first for the year 2000 among banks with assets ranging from $100 million to $129 million, and second in the three-year ranking."Do we have to keep that up?," asks CEO Stephen H. Wacknitz. "The head of a bank is like a football coach, you're only as good as your last quarter." But first-quarter 2001 results indicate that Wacknitz is keeping up the pace. Earnings were up 20% over the first quarter of 2000, he says. "I love banking, I love the challenge of it, and [Federal Reserve chairman Alan] Greenspan has certainly been adding to that challenge," says Wacknitz. Lower interest rates have been hurting small banks because rates on loans tend to decline faster than rates on deposits.Wacknitz doesn't take full credit. "As much as anything else, we owe our success to Southern California, with its good economy," he says.The second ranked company in the 48-bank group, Santa Lucia Bank, Atascadero, is also from California. "We do business the old-fashioned way, we offer the latest in technology but we still talk directly to people," says CEO Stanley R. Cherry. "We don't charge people to talk to a teller."Santa Lucia concentrates on dealing with businesses and keeps its operations simple. "We're not involved in securities or selling insurance. We do one thing and we do it well," Cherry says.

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