Ontario to Ventura sounds like the commute from hell, but it was the right route to take for the Inland Empire’s biggest bank.

On Oct. 14, CVB Financial Corp., parent company of Ontario’s Citizens Business Bank, agreed to acquire Ventura’s County Commerce Bank for $41.25 million, equally split between cash and stock.

Citizens Chief Executive Chris Myers said the deal was primarily about getting a good bank in a great neighborhood.

“This was an acquisition of geographic expansion into a marketplace that we wanted to get into,” he explained, “and County Commerce Bank is an extremely well-run bank. It would be difficult to find a bank that size that operates more successfully than this bank.”

County Commerce had about $253 million in assets as of June 30, while Citizens had slightly less than $7.7 billion at that time. Although Citizens is located just across the San Bernardino County line – which is why it does not appear on the Business Journal’s list of largest Los Angeles County banks (see page 18) – the bank would have placed No. 6 if it moved a few miles west. The county is the bank’s biggest market, Myers said.

The Ventura and Santa Barbara regions are compelling, Myers added, because they contain plenty of affluent communities with the type of clientele Citizens wants to go after. In addition, California’s shrinking bank scene has created an opportunity for a bank the size of Citizens to step in, particularly in that part of the state.

“There’s been several acquisitions over the last decade in that area,” Myers said, mentioning the acquisition of Arroyo Grande’s Mid-State Bank & Trust by Dutch finance giant Rabobank in 2007 and the 2012 purchase of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust by MUFG Union Bank in New York.

“There’s only a handful of community banks left and most banks there are larger banks,” he said. “As a midsize bank, we can fill the role of a community bank, but with big bank services.”

Myers said he’s interested in further acquisitions, but only banks that are already on solid footing. Some opportunistic investors have done well turning around troubled banks in the years since the financial crisis, but that’s not his preferred business model.

“We’re looking to expand our presence where we can, but we want to do it in a quality way,” he said. “In this low-interest-rate environment, we have to be very careful.”

There is one part of the region that’s high on Myers’ list, however.

“We don’t have an office in the Westside of Los Angeles,” he said. “That would be a desirable area.”

Bruin Money

UCLA sports has a new teammate: Pasadena’s Wescom Credit Union.

Wescom announced Sept. 1 that it had agreed to a five-year deal to become the official financial institution of both UCLA Athletics and the Rose Bowl Stadium, where the university’s football team plays its home games.

Wescom Chief Executive Darren Williams is pumped up about the scored deal.

“From a business standpoint, we think this makes sense for us and our members,” he said. “Any institution needs to grow and we do believe this is going to allow us to have opportunities to welcome new members. It gives us the opportunity to reach a whole new generation of consumers: UCLA students and athletes – not to mention the alumni.”

Wescom, which had about $3.2 billion in assets as of Sept. 30, was founded as Telephone Employees Credit Union in 1934 to serve workers in that industry. The credit union expanded its field of membership in 1999 to include anyone living, working or attending school in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura and San Bernardino counties, later adding San Diego and Santa Barbara counties as well.

That means all current UCLA students qualify to become Wescom members, and Williams plans to take full advantage. The firm plans to open a branch in Westwood that will have extended hours, making it more convenient for student schedules. Wescom also hopes to hire a handful of students to work at the branch.

As part of the partnership, Wescom will be developing and managing financial literacy programs for UCLA student-athletes. There will also be Wescom-branded ATMs throughout the Rose Bowl and Pauley Pavilion, where the school’s basketball teams play.

Williams said the partnership has already given Wescom’s other members something to cheer about.

“By engaging our members, we’ve been able to make game attendance and tickets available through sweepstakes,” he said. “That’s a lot of fun.”

C-Suite News

Joshua Yeargin has joined the Century City office of New York accounting firm CohnReznick as a partner.

Staff reporter Matt Pressberg can be reached at mpressberg@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 200.

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