If you want to explain economic concepts to everyday Californians, you could do a lot worse than enlisting Bill Clinton.

The former president keynoted Banc of California Inc.’s financial literacy event at USC’s Galen Center on Nov. 10, which provided financial skills training to nearly 6,000 at-risk youths from the Los Angeles area. The Guinness Book of World Records was there to confirm that the event set a world record: biggest ever financial literacy training.

Clinton explained the concept to those in attendance with his trademark folksy charm.

“Financial literacy is a very fancy term for saying: Spend it smart, don’t blow it, save what you can,” he said at the event.

The financial literacy training came at a busy time for the Irvine bank, which has lately been making inroads in Los Angeles. Its purchase of 20 branches in Los Angeles and Orange counties – and more than $1 billion in assets – from Puerto Rico’s Popular Community Bank officially closed last week.

The California Reinvestment Coalition, a powerful statewide advocacy group made up of many local organizations, opposed the deal at first, but Banc of California was eventually able to get the coalition’s blessing. The bank got a huge assist from former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who serves on its advisory board and acted as a liaison between it and the coalition. (The Business Journal covered Banc of California’s talks with the coalition in the Oct. 20 edition.)

In an interview at the bank’s Beverly Hills office, Chief Executive Steve Sugarman described the talks with the coalition as a really interesting and rewarding process and said he was pleased with how everything played out. He also reiterated that community events such as the one at USC, where bank Vice Chairman Chad Brownstein also spoke, are an integral part of the bank’s strategy.

“I was really proud to be sitting next to Paulina Gonzalez at the event,” he said, referring to the coalition’s executive director. “What’s been exciting is as we’ve gotten to know organizations like the CRC, they’ve seen that the things we’re doing are real and tangible. That’s building the trust that we need with all of these community leaders.”

Green Backers

Morgan Stanley Wealth Management has started a program called Investing With Impact, which aims to give investors an opportunity for solid returns while doing good. And a local adviser, Chip Stone in Glendale, is one of the program’s main champions.

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