The chief executives of SVB Financial Group, UMB Financial Corp., and NewAlliance Bancshares Inc. have been selected as American Banker's 2008 Community Bankers of the Year.

SVB's Kenneth P. Wilcox, UMB's J. Mariner Kemper, and NewAlliance's Peyton R. Patterson will be among six industry leaders honored at the annual Banker of the Year Awards gala in New York.

The three companies are vastly different from one another, but one thing that they have in common is that they have remained strong performers in what has been the most challenging climate for banks since the savings and loan crisis.

SVB Financial, the Santa Clara, Calif., parent of the $8.1 billion-asset Silicon Valley Bank, has thrived by sticking to what it does best: serving growing technology and life sciences firms and the venture capitalists that back them.

UMB's strength is its diversity. The $9.3 billion-asset Kansas City, Mo., company has operations in seven states and generates a large chunk of its income from the fee-based services it provides to business and high-net-worth customers. That model has helped it weather the credit crisis far better than many other companies of its size.

The $8.3 billion-asset NewAlliance is based in New Haven, Conn., and ranks among the Northeast's strongest savings banks today because it stuck to its credit standards while some competitors were relaxing theirs. Some of those competitors have either disappeared or scaled back their lending, but NewAlliance has emerged as the top Small Business Administration lender in its home state, and it is on pace to set a full-year mortgage origination record this year.

Mr. Wilcox and Ms. Patterson took over their companies in 2001. Mr. Kemper, the former president of UMB's Colorado bank, became the parent company's CEO in 2004, when he was 31.

In some respects, all three CEOs reinvented their companies after taking them over.

Under Ms. Patterson, NewAlliance has undergone the most dramatic makeover. It was a mutual thrift known as New Haven Savings Bank when Ms. Patterson was hired in 2001. It went public in 2004 and used the proceeds from the stock sale to buy two banks.

The transactions nearly tripled its size and created what is now the third-largest banking or thrift company based in Connecticut.

UMB was hardly floundering when Mr. Kemper succeeded his brother as the CEO, but it was not a star performer, either. Today it is widely viewed by analysts and investors as one of the country's best-run banking companies, and much of the credit can go to Mr. Kemper.

His company always been known for commercial banking, but Mr. Kemper has helped make it a better retail bank by improving its branch network and retraining its lenders to be better deposit gatherers.

The improvement in UMB's performance has been especially evident this year. Most banking companies have been reporting sharp earnings declines, but UMB's profits for the first nine months of the year climbed 32% from a year earlier, to $77.8 million.

Silicon Valley, one of the nation's highest-flying banks in the 1990s, hit a rough patch when the technology bubble burst. Under Mr. Wilcox, it sharpened its focus on a few industries, including the premium wine market, and it exited the real estate lending business. It also added new products and accelerated its expansion both nationally and internationally. It now has offices in every major technology center in the world.

Even with the economy weakening, Silicon Valley is enjoying strong growth. In the first three quarters of this year its loans and deposits climbed more than 20%, and its returns on equity and assets are comfortably above industry averages.

Mr. Wilcox, Mr. Kemper, and Ms. Patterson will receive their awards at a dinner at the Plaza Hotel on Dec. 4.

The other honorees are Jerry Grundhofer, the chairman emeritus at U.S. Bancorp, who will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; Kenneth D. Lewis, the chairman, president, and CEO at Bank of America Corp.; who will receive the Banker of the Year Award; and Janie Barrera, the president and CEO at Accion Texas, who will receive the Innovator of the Year Award.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair will be the keynote speaker.

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Corrected April 17, 2012 at 3:57PM: An earlier version of this story on page 7 understated the number of states where UMB Financial Corp. operates. It is seven.