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WADE DANIELS Staff Reporter The roster of independent San Fernando Valley banks has lost some big names in recent years, such as Great Western Financial Corp. and Coast Federal Bank, and it may be fast on its way to further change. Thousand Oaks-based Los Robles Bank is in merger talks with three other similarly sized banks, according to Robert B. Hamilton, the bank’s president. “With banks our size there’s a lot of interest in merging with other banks of similar size,” said Hamilton, adding that the banks Los Robles is talking with are in the same general geographic area. Los Robles, with three bank locations and a loan office in the city of Orange, is the eighth-largest Valley-based bank, based on assets as of June 30. It reported assets of $129 million, representing a 24.9 percent increase from a year earlier. If the deal currently being discussed is struck, Los Robles and the other banks would form a holding company to own the institutions, with a senior management and board, while the banks themselves would each retain their names, management teams and boards. Through such a merger, the banks would realize economies of scale, possibly by centralizing such functions as data processing, investments, marketing and advertising. Such a deal would also enable existing managers to retain their positions. “If you are bought out, you’re gone,” said Hamilton. “You lose the name, often the directors, and you slowly lose the management.” Tony Palmer, president of Simi Valley-based First Western Bank, No. 7 on the list, said he is skeptical that a merger arrangement like the one Los Robles is discussing could function smoothly. “It would be very tough, because you have different boards of directors, different egos, different management styles,” said Palmer, whose bank reported assets of $141 million as of June 30. Palmer said First Western, which has six locations, is determined to stay independent. Its assets grew by 24.1 percent during the 12-month period ended June 30, and Palmer argued that merging with another bank might hinder that growth. “With all the large mergers going on, there is great demand for community banks that provide more personalized service,” Palmer said. “If we merge, people might see us as less of a community bank.” Officials at Lancaster-based Antelope Valley Bank, No. 5 on the list, believe differently. With assets of $200.9 million as of June 30 (a 10 percent increase from a year earlier), Antelope Valley Bank is the latest local bank to announce that is joining forces with another institution. In a stock swap deal, it is in the process of joining with Laguna Hills-based Eldorado Bancshares Inc. That company owns Eldorado Bank, which had total assets of about $1 billion as of June 30. It operates 17 bank offices, nine mortgage-banking offices and four equipment-leasing offices. The merger was announced in mid-September and is expected to close early next year. Verdugo Banking Co. has had offers, and may one day join forces with another bank, but it won’t involve a stock swap, said Raymond Dumser, the Glendale-based institution’s president and chief executive. “Most of what we get are stock swap offers,” he said. “You have to ask, ‘Is their stock valuable currency?’ It’s not such a good deal because bank stocks have been going down.” Verdugo Banking, ranked No. 12, had total assets of $81.8 million at mid-year, an increase of 29.6 percent from June 30 of last year. While the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked institutions are based in the Valley, they are actually owned by entities out of the area. Since 1996, La Jolla-based holding company ITLA Capital Corp. has owned No. 1-ranked Imperial Thrift and Loan, which had $997.2 million in total assets as of June 30. Last year, Honolulu-based Pacific Century Financial Corp. bought No. 2-ranked Pacific Century Bank, then named California United Bank.

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