A California hedge fund set up to support small Golden State banks has made its first investment.

The California Community Financial Institutions Fund has invested $4.5 million in Security First Bank, a $35 million-asset bank based in Fullerton. The investment gives the fund a 52% ownership stake in Security First as well as one seat on the company's board of directors.

"Our intent is to work with the management team, not to go in and throw our weight around," said J. Thomas Byrom, chief financial officer at Belvedere Capital Partners Inc., the San Francisco holding company that manages the fund.

Established with $75 million in capital last February, the fund is headed by Anthony M. Frank, former chief executive officer at First Nationwide Bank, and Richard W. Decker Jr., former CEO at WestAmerica Bank.

The fund aims to provide capital to banks with less than $750 million of assets. Its strategy is to buy at least a 10% ownership stake in seven to 10 community banks, mainly in California.

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