For the first time in a decade, a new federally chartered savings bank is being readied to open in California.
The Office of Thrift Supervision approved San Luis Trust Bank's charter application May 21. The next step for the organizers, who are headed by 32- year banking veteran Lynn W. Lyon, is to raise $3.5 million to $5 million of capital this summer; $1 million of that is to come out of Mr. Lyon's deep pockets.
The drought of thrift applications resulted from the industry's problems of the 1980s and the poor health of California's housing sector, said William Fulwider, an OTS spokesman, and the number of thrifts in the state has tumbled.
"California's economy and housing markets are enjoying a resurgence," Mr. Fulwider said, "and we've had some inquiries from other organizers interested in starting new thrifts."
San Luis Trust Bank will be the third financial entity to be launched by Mr. Lyon in San Luis Obispo, a town of 42,000 along California's central coast. He headed San Luis National Bank until Wells Fargo & Co. bought it in 1979, and the next year he organized FirstBank of San Luis Obispo.
Mr. Lyon was president of FirstBank until 18 months ago, when the board ousted him citing unspecified "improper conduct." A wrongful-termination lawsuit against the $146 million-asset bank was settled out of court in April.
"The ordeal was difficult for my family," said Mr. Lyon, 58, "I've put the matter behind me, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to start another bank."
He said he had sought a thrift charter this time because of its flexibility and because there are no other thrifts in the county. But San Luis will act like a full-service commercial bank, offering a broad range of loans beyond residential construction and equity, he said.
The savings bank-slated for a fourth-quarter opening-will strictly serve the city of San Luis Obispo, Mr. Lyon said, and there are no plans for branching.
San Luis Trust Bank will be an active Small Business Administration lender, issue credit cards through a program designed by the Independent Bankers Association of America, and offer commercial and consumer lines of credit, Mr. Lyon said.
Two new banks-Coastal National Bank and Mission Community Bank-have opened for business in San Luis Obispo over the past year, but industry watchers said Mr. Lyon should do well.
"Mr. Lyon has strong experience in that market," remarked Barry M. Rubens, president of California Research Corp., a Santa Monica bank consulting firm.
Mr. Lyons' son Bradley, 36, will be president and chief financial officer of San Luis Trust Bank.