Managing director Founders Nat'l Bank of Los Angeles

Carlton J. Jenkins is an opportunist with a cause.

His opportunity; the interest in the plight of inner cities, spurred by the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

His cause: financing minority businesses.

"There is not an event that is significant to the minority communities in town that he is not a participant in," says Thomas S. Sayles, commissioner of corporations for the state of California. "It's just amazing; the guy seems to be everywhere."

Mr. Jenkins, 37, is the managing director of Founders National Bank, the only African-American-owned commercial bank in Los Angeles.

Four days after the riots, he organized a bus tour of the South Central area for 50 local bankers.

"I wanted to give them a firsthand view of the devastation," he says. "I didn't want them to get it from a television set or a newspaper."

Mr. Jenkins chairs the financial institutions subcommittee of Rebuild L.A., the business coalition formed in the wake of the riots.

"My focus specifically is to look at the impediments to capital to minorities and [to find] solutions," Mr. Jenkins says.

Founders National is doing its part, making $15 million in $25,000 to $150,000 loans in 1992. To keep the $60 million-asset bank growing, Mr. Jenkins has found some unusual ways of building capital.

Bank of America is buying $1.5 million of Founders National preferred stock. Mr. Jenkins says the money will be used to buy two of B of A's inner-city branches.

"B of A will become a shareholder in this bank," Mr. Jenkins says proudly.

He has also persuaded the Arco oil company to buy $1 million of preferred and to match any capital Mr. Jenkins raises, up to another $1 million.

"That's $3 million," he says. "Add in B of A's money, and that's $4.5 million. I will have managed to basically double my capital."

Mr. Jenkins has been creating possibilities from adversity for years.

Fired as chief operating officer at United Mercantile Bank in Pasadena in March 1990, Mr. Jenkins set out to acquire his own bank. He knew minority-owned small businesses needed credit, so he persuaded his 78-year-old grandfather, Leon Garr, to put down $750,000 to help him buy a failed thrift from the Resolution Trust Corp.

"My energy -- his money," Mr. Jenkins says. "My grandfather doesn't know a debit from a credit."

But Mr. Jenkins does.

In 1976 he joined Lloyds Bank California as a consumer loan officer. The bank was small enough to offer "a faster path to the top."

He amassed 15 years of experience at five banks before getting laid off. He then spent nine months engineering his takeover of Founders Federal Savings and Loan.

Founders National, with three branches, opened the day after the Martin Luther King holiday in January 1991.

"For me, it was a joy," Mr. Jenkins says. "A dream come true."

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