Opus Bank is going Hollywood.

Taking advantage of its 15 offices across Los Angeles, the Irvine-based commercial lender has launched a media and entertainment banking division and hired Jeffrey Zaks, 36, as senior managing director to lead the team.

Zaks previously worked in the media and entertainment finance group at Pasadena-based OneWest and then CIT Bank after the two merged. He’ll spend much of his time working out of Opus offices in El Segundo, Beverly Hills, and downtown and West Los Angeles.

“Opus is very niche driven,” said Opus Chief Executive Stephen Gordon.

Rather than being a generalist, Gordon, 53, said the lender develops divisions in which it focuses its expertise on health care, tech, corporate finance, and commercial real estate, among others.

But Opus had been getting lots of media and entertainment banking inquiries and began preparing to launch the vertical about a year ago.

“It wasn’t anything where we scratched our heads and said, I think we’ll do media and entertainment, and hire some schlub off the street a week later. A lot of thought and due diligence went into this,” he said.

Gordon added that it made sense to have a media and entertainment banking division because it could leverage the firm’s commercial banking and geographic focus.

As to whether L.A.’s media and entertainment industries are already sufficiently banked by competitors, Gordon sees jockeying for deals as a zero-sum game that Opus is well-equipped to play because of its footprint in Los Angeles County.

“We’re going to be able to get our share of it; we don’t have to be the dominant guy in the industry,” he said. “We just want our share of good clients and good opportunities to enable expansion and growth.”

Similar to Zaks’ work at OneWest, the banker said he was attracted to his new gig because of the opportunity to build a division from scratch as well as Opus’ entrepreneurial bent, which he thinks will jibe with the approaches at entertainment firms.

“In film alone, producers and execs are taking a piece of material from scratch, whether in the studio system or independently, and taking it from soup to nuts,” Zaks said. “It’s a very entrepreneurial tack.”

Banking on Buyers

A lot of first-time homebuyers in the county are planning on purchasing solo, according to Bank of America’s first nationwide homebuyer insights report.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank polled about 300 respondents in Los Angeles ages 18 to 34 who want to buy a home for the first time and found that 43 percent wanted to take the plunge without a partner or spouse.

Another finding showed that almost 80 percent of new buyers want a single-family home as opposed to a condo. And 76 percent of those surveyed were motivated by emotional factors such as putting roots down versus 66 percent who were driven by financial reasons.

Ventura-based Bank of America Senior Vice President Diana Gleason, 57, said these new L.A. homebuyers are driven by aspiration and emotion versus seeing real estate as a commodity.

They’re seeing the value of home ownership, according to Gleason, pointing to the study’s finding that 86 percent of respondents said saving for or paying off a home is important, almost as much as the 91 percent who think saving for retirement is important.

“To bring back the health of the housing industry we need the millennials to start purchasing and owning their homes,” Gleason said, explaining that this would allow other homeowners to move up and buy another property. “It’s the catalyst for a healthy home market.”

When the report delved into why some respondents hadn’t bought a home previously, it found that many of those millennials thought they wouldn’t qualify, Gleason said.

“That piece really tells us that we really need to have our professionals in our (branches) helping people to understand the qualifications for buying a new home,” she said. “The awareness of this is going to be huge for us.”

Deals and Hirings

Beverly Hills-based Pacific Western Bank announced it has sold certain operations and $140 million of equipment leases from its Salt Lake City-based Pacific Western Equipment Finance division to BofI Holding Inc., the San Diego parent company of BofI Federal Bank. The purchase price consisted of assumed liabilities plus a lease purchase-price premium of approximately 2.5 percent. A specific dollar amount was not disclosed. … Pasadena-based Community Bank has hired Jory Potts as vice president and relationship manager targeting the labor management market. … West L.A. investment bank FocalPoint Partners has added Richard Phillips as a managing director on the firm’s aerospace and defense team.

Staff reporter Marni Usheroff can be reached at musheroff@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 229.

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