SAN DIEGO - As local banks continue to be swallowed up by larger out-of-towners, plans are in the works for the first new bank in San Diego County in three years.
A group of business leaders, including several bankers, has received approval from the state's Department of Financial Institutions to organize First Pacific Bank. They hope to raise up to $11 million and to open their first branches this summer.
"Some of the larger banks in town won't make a loan for less than $100,000," said First Pacific chairman Donald W. McVay, a lawyer. "But a huge percentage of the market here is comprised of smaller businesses, and we want to do our part to make funds available for them."
Seven community banks in the county were bought by larger banks last year, including $700 million-asset Bank of Commerce and $453 million-asset Peninsula Bank, which were both purchased by U.S. Bancorp of Minneapolis, and $349-million asset North County Bank, which was bought by Wells Fargo.
Such consolidation often leads to a wave start-up activity, but only First Pacific has applied for a charter in San Diego County this year. If organizers are successful in raising the funds, First Pacific would be the first new bank in the county since 1997, when three were started - Southwest Community Bank in Encinitas, Rancho Bernardo Community Bank, and San Diego Canyon National Bank.
"I think we're at the tip of the wave," said Rob Hildt, First Pacific's president and a former top executive at Home Savings of America. "I think you're going to see other new community banks following us."
Robert J. Gallivan, a principal at Bank Compensation Strategies Group in San Diego, agreed that the fast-growing county is ripe for new community banks. But in this type of market, where consumers have a wide selection of sizable banks at their disposal, capturing a niche is crucial, Mr. Gallivan said.
"You no longer can be just in the transaction business, be-cause the very big banks are too good at it, so you have to have a niche," he said. "Gone are the days where you could just put up a bank charter, hire somebody, and think you're going to get rich."