Once again, Hollywood glitz is attracting the attention of the money people.
Comerica Bank Inc., which financed the Academy Award-winning movie "Crash" is setting its sights on Southern California for future growth. The Detroit-based lender, with $55 billion in assets, is moving its regional headquarters to Century City, opening 10 branches in Los Angeles this year, and relocating its entertainment finance division to be closer to Hollywood.
Comerica joins the ranks of other banking giants, including HSBC Bank USA, that are opening branches to capture market share in Southern California. The region has the largest number of small- and mid-sized businesses in the U.S., and is a breeding ground for affluent entrepreneurs.
David White, regional president of Comerica's Western market, said bank executives have spent years analyzing demographic trends to determine the fastest-growing markets in the U.S. The bank's Western region, which includes California and Arizona, generated one-third of the bank's profits last year.
"Small-business owners and middle-market customers visit a bank branch every week, and that's why we're beginning a branch expansion strategy," said White, who has worked for Comerica for 35 years.
Comerica plans to open a dozen branches every year for the next five years in California and Arizona, with the majority of branches in Southern California. Last year, the bank opened 35 branches in its core markets of California, Texas, Michigan and Arizona.
Unlike banking behemoths Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co., which dominate the retail market, Comerica sees itself as a regional competitor of City National Bank, in Beverly Hills, and Union Bank of California, in San Francisco. Both banks have large entertainment finance and wealth management divisions as well as retail operations.
Comerica earned a name for itself in Southern California with the acquisition in 2001 of Imperial Bancorp, which counted Yahoo! Inc. and eBay Inc. among its early customers. Comerica got its start as a business bank in Detroit 150 years ago, though it merged in the past 15 years with Manufacturers National Bank.
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