The oldest bank in New Mexico is pairing up with a Texas startup.

The $755 million-asset New Mexico Banquest announced Friday it would be acquired by Strategic Growth Bancorp, an El Paso company founded by father-and-son team Bill and Pablo Sanders.

With a pending acquisition in Colorado, Strategic Growth is angling to build a regional franchise. The New Mexico deal is expected to close in the second quarter.

New Mexico Banquest would continue to operate its First National Bank of Santa Fe unit, which was founded in 1870, after the close, according to a press release. It would also continue to operate an advisory and insurance company.

It described the sale as "pro-active" and as a way for First National to "retain its community roots while growing to become one of the leading financial services firms in the Southwest."

First National had a leverage ratio of 10.37% at Sept. 30, making it exceedingly well capitalized, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data show. Its nonperforming loans made up 1.41% of loans.

That is starkly different from Strategic's pending acquisition in Colorado. In September, it announced it agreed to acquire the $847 million-asset Mile High Banks in Longmont. The bank is significantly undercapitalized, and the deal involves Mile High Banks' parent company, Big Sandy Holding, going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Strategic would pay the bankruptcy court $5.5 million for the bank and then infuse it with $90 million of additional capital.

Strategic Growth was organized in 2009 and has acquired two banks so far. In 2010, it acquired the $141 million-asset Capital Bank in El Paso and earlier this year it acquired the $102 million-asset Bank of the Rio Grande in Las Cruces, N.M. It also raised $250 million in growth capital from institutional and local investors, the El Paso Times reported this year.

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