City National Corp. is fine-tuning its branch system to make it more attractive to business clients and wealthy customers.

The bank has closed three branches, sold another, and is opening five.

Four acquisitions in the last three years have expanded the $5.8 billion-asset banking company's branch network to 37. The deals also brought City National into Riverside and Ventura counties for the first time and bolstered its presence in Orange and Los Angeles counties. (Last week City National agreed to buy North American Trust, San Diego. See story on page 12.)

"We are not trying to grow simply for the sake of growth," said vice chairman and chief executive officer Russell Goldsmith. "Net, we're growing, but also we're trading up."

A branch is to be opened next month in Ontario, Calif., taking City National into San Bernardino County for the first time. Offices in Studio City and Carlsbad were opened in August. Two more are planned for Irvine and San Diego, where the bank has a branch.

The realignment is meant to "refine, deepen, and improve our ability" to serve commercial customers and the affluent, Mr. Goldsmith said.

To that end, the company opened a Los Angeles branch last year within steps of another of its offices. The newer branch is in Library Tower, longtime home of the defunct First Interstate Bancorp.

Mr. Goldsmith said his bank was compelled to get closer to the law and accounting firms with offices in that building. All branches, even those nearby, serve "distinct submarkets," he said.

"That's based on a clear understanding of downtown Los Angeles," he said. "People aren't inclined to go four blocks."

It is with similar reasoning that the bank maintains three branches-two from its acquisition of First Los Angeles Bank-in the Century City section, also within blocks of each other. Mr. Goldsmith said all three business bank branches are "very profitable."

City National's typical business customers have yearly sales of $5 million to $200 million.

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