SVB Financial's executives are fearless when it comes to targeting markets like London in the heat of a European financial meltdown.
The $21 billion-asset company opened its first London branch Monday. Despite a unsettling Eurozone crisis, the Santa Clara, Calif., company's executives found heavy support by the United Kingdom's government and technology companies throughout Europe.
"The knowledge, expertise and dedication that Silicon Valley Bank brings to the ecosystem is another important step toward our objective to make the UK the best place to start and grow the great technology companies of the future," George Osborne, London Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in SVB's press release issued Sunday night.
The announcement's timing was uncanny. A day earlier, Osborne, the British finance minister, spoke against propping up European banks. He is asking Eurozone leaders to establish certain "safe guards" if it proceeds with a banking union.
"I know from talking to British businesses that our country is bursting with entrepreneurial spirit and exciting investment plans that are being held back because of uncertainty about the future," Osborne wrote in Saturday's edition of The Telegraph. "That's why a resolution of the Eurozone crisis would do more than anything else to give our economy a boost."
SVB's expansion could play heavily into Osborne's push to revive start-up technology businesses in the country. The company also caters to life science, cleantech, private equity, venture capital and winery industries.
Greg Becker, SVB's president and chief executive, said he is keenly aware of the risks of expanding in Europe, though he is interested in a multitude of opportunities that remain untapped because most European banks are "more inwardly focused." SVB's bank, Silicon Valley Bank, has set up shop next door to The Bank of England.
"In the U.S., technology innovation is much more of a topic that you hear about on a regular basis," Becker said. "Where innovation companies have not got lot of attention is in the UK but both local companies and the government want more attention toward it."
SVB spent nearly eight years developing a presence in London through a loan production office. The company filed its branch application in 2010 and received regulatory approval two months ago. Becker said that having the London branch will allow SVB to gain new business in the U.K. and help its existing clients conduct business between the U.S. and Europe.
Before opening the branch, "we have had hundreds and hundreds of clients in the U.S. that are setting up in the U.K. that we had to refer to another bank," Becker said. "That alone is big revenue growth opportunity to us."
SVB has more than $300 million in outstanding loans produced through operations in London, India and China. A majority of that amount is from the U.K., said Becker, who did not further specify. He said he has been contacted by surrounding governments to expand their loan operations throughout Europe.
"To say they were welcoming would be an understatement," Becker said. As an example, Becker pointed to the "excited market" on their social media accounts such as their newly launched Twitter name, @SVB_UK. By Monday afternoon, the account had more than 300 followers, many being executives of technology and Internet companies.
Becker said SVB has not discussed any further branch expansions globally, though the company is preparing to launch a joint-venture bank with Shanghai Pudong Development Bank that should open later this year. Silicon Valley Bank, with only five U.S. branches, has grown its business primarily online and internationally through a payment structure with Royal Bank of Scotland.
"We do work with companies going into Brazil, in Russia and Australia," Becker said. "What's great about technology in today's world is if we set up one branch here [in London], we can serve companies throughout the UK and into Europe."