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California is such a huge market, with more entrepreneurial
businesses by number than any other market in the country, 1st
Enterprise Bank will not need to capture a large market share in order to grow and drive
Regional Pacific Banks
1st Enterprise Bank
818 W. 7th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90017
Interview conducted by:
Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor
Published - May 25, 2007
John C. Black, Chief Executive Officer and Director
With more than 23 years of business banking experience in Los Angeles and Orange Counties,
Mr. Black, 47, has built a reputation among business owners for personal attention,
industry-specific experience and innovation. Before the founding of 1st
Enterprise Bank, Mr. Black served as Division President of Mellon 1st Business
Bank, where he was responsible for that Banks Los Angeles Headquarters Commercial
Banking Group, Personal Financial Services Group, Specialty Deposit Group, San Fernando
Valley Regional Office and West Los Angeles Regional Office.
Mr. Black served in various management positions at
Mellon 1st Business Bank (previously named 1st Business Bank until
its acquisition by Pittsburg-based Mellon Financial Corp.) from 1988 through June 2005,
acquiring a deep understanding during this time of the unique qualities of Southern
Californias small- and mid-size businesses.
During his 17 year tenure there, Mr. Black served as
Division President, as Executive Vice President/Division Manager, as Regional Vice
President for the downtown Los Angeles headquarters office, as Senior Vice President and
Group Manager, as Vice President and Group Manager, as Vice President and as an Assistant
Vice President. From 2002 to 2005 he also served on the banks Executive
Management Committee, Senior Management Committee and Credit Policy Committee.
Mr. Black began his banking career in 1984 in the
Long Beach-Orange County regional office of Bank of America and then with First Interstate
Banks Corporate Banking Group in Long Beach from 1986 to 1988.
My role at 1st Enterprise Bank is the culmination of more than 23 years
of working as a business banker right here in Southern California for the kind of
entrepreneurs and their industries that make this a great place to live and work, he
said recently. I take their business our
business personally. When they succeed, we all succeed, and thats why I helped to found
1st Enterprise: to give these business owners the kind of responsive,
experienced, and personal banking relationships
1st Enterprise Bank: 1st Enterprise Bank is a full service commercial banking institution,
whose highly experienced bankers personally serve Southern Californias
entrepreneurial businesses. Headquartered in the Los Angeles financial district and
founded in 2006, 1st Enterprise Bank offers a full range of credit and depository
services, with special emphasis on superior customer service, sophisticated cash
management services and direct access to bank decision makers. Customers work directly
with their 1st Enterprise Relationship Banker, who understands the unique challenges of
their industry and serves as a sounding board and an active participant in their success.
For more information on 1st Enterprise Bank please visit our website at
CEOCFO: Mr. Black, what was your vision
for the bank and how do you get there?
Mr. Black: The vision for 1st
Enterprise Bank was to build a locally owned, managed and governed, full-service
commercial business bank, designed to meet the needs of the small and mid-sized
entrepreneurial firm and their owners and key executives. There have been quite a number
of banks formed over the last five years, but if you break them down, very few have the
ability to service this market niche the way our team does. Going forward, we plan to
continue to build the bank organically and to recruit the most talented people we can.
From our headquarters location in downtown LA, we will expand by establishing regional
offices. We are already in the process of opening our first regional office in Orange
County. We will look at the various commercial submarkets around southern California as we
go from there.
What is it about your team and bank that allows you to address the group you are looking
Mr. Black: We have a very unique blend
of talent and experience here. We opened the bank in July of 2006, with a staff of twenty.
Eighteen of us had previously worked together for various lengths of time, up to as long
as seventeen years. We not only have all spent our entire banking careers handling this
market niche, but we have spent most of our careers doing it as a cohesive team at a
highly successful previously independent bank. We started out with a strong culture right
from day one as opposed to many of the other recently opened banks that have been cobbled
together with people from different organizations and in some cases from outside of this
Besides the business that you brought with you, how do you attract new customers?
Mr. Black: The best and most effective
way is through referrals, and those can be from existing, satisfied customers of the bank
or they can be from members of the professional community with whom we network. These are
CPAs, attorneys, insurance brokers, consultants etc. They may also come from our board of
directors or our founding shareholders. We have 75 Founders who put up the
initial seed money prior to our stock offering, and we have about 380 shareholders, all of
whom are known personally to one of the executive officers of the bank. We meet with these
folks regularly, both in large and small groups. Most of our officers also are active in
various community organizations and non-profit organizations, which serve to increase our
visibility in the business community. Finally, our Relationship Managers are very good at
identifying attractive bank customers and initiating the process of soliciting their
What is unique about the geographic area you serve and the business people that you are
Mr. Black: The first thing that sets
Southern California apart is that the LA and Orange County areas have more entrepreneurial
small to mid-sized businesses by number than any other market in the country. This is also
a very diverse economy, with very strong trade activity, a surprisingly vigorous
manufacturing base, wholesale distribution activity and thousands of professional service
firms. It is a very large and very broad business market. The people that own and run
these businesses are typically very hands on and very demanding of high touch
service. They also typically live in the same areas they do business, and they are very
active in their communities. Our customers and prospective customers also tend to be
highly successful in their businesses and their industry. We tend to attract business
customers that are very well regarded in their industry.
You do banking with comfort and ease, will you explain that for us?
Mr. Black: We bring the bank to you.
We are not a bricks and mortar bank in the sense of having a vast branch network. For most
of our customers, we provide a daily courier that picks up their deposits, delivers any
correspondence from the bank and then rotates everyday bringing them receipts for their
deposits and any other information that we are sending them. We are also fully internet
functional in terms of providing our banking and cash management services to our customers
desktop. They can effectively handle nearly all of their banking through our Business
Internet Banking service. However, there is always an experienced banker behind the
technology, and you are not placed on hold, given an 800 number or transferred to a
service center outside the country when you bank with us. Our customers are personally
known to several individuals at the bank, oftentimes myself, or a senior operations
officer. For any significant transactions that are required with regard to financing, cash
management or to simply review recent operations, we come to you. We sit in your office or
home to discuss how we can help you achieve your goals. We also pride ourselves on being a
flat organization, with direct access to every key decision maker. Every customer of our
bank is personally known by experienced and capable bankers.
In this particular banking climate, has it been easier or more difficult to get started as
a new bank?
Mr. Black: The real question is,
how is the interest rate environment impacting the banks performance?
The answer is this is a much better time to start a new bank than it was five or so years
ago when we had Fed Funds down as low as 1%. It is probably not as good a time as when Fed
Funds were much higher than today and we had a normal yield curve. Since we are very
effective at gathering core deposits, our biggest challenge is finding ways to deploy
these funds in a risk adjusted and profitable manner. Economically, this region is very
strong and the economy has continued to expand. Companies generally have done very well
over the last two to three years and that is providing a benefit to us in the sense that
as our customers grow, the bank grows along with them.
Do you see the need to add additional services?
Mr. Black: Yes, we are actually in the
process of deploying remote deposit service, which I think is like ATM machines were 25
years ago. Businesses are in the early adoption phase of this service, but once it catches
on, the adoption rate is going to get much higher. This service effectively eliminates the
need for a courier, allows customers to make their deposits from their own office
electronically and is very convenient. In addition, we are constantly upgrading our
internet banking capabilities. We are now offering our customers the option of receiving
their bank statements on CD ROM, including front and back images of all of their checks.
We are always looking at the areas of customer service and technology to broaden or
improve our services. Further, we have recently established a commercial/industrial real
estate construction lending team.
What do you see two or three years down the line?
Mr. Black: I see 1st
Enterprise Bank continuing to grow by establishing new relationships with local
businesses. I see us becoming recognized as a premier provider of commercial banking
services, and a clear alternative to much larger banking companies. Our staff today is 26,
but will grow as we identify talented, aggressive, entrepreneurial bankers. We may also
look at the possibility of opening a second regional office in one of the local
Why should potential investors consider 1st Enterprise Bank?
Mr. Black: First, I think we have a
superior team of bankers, with proven track records of building a successful bank. I am
extremely proud of the quality and the talent and experience that we have assembled here.
Talent tends to attract talent, and success breeds success. I have very high expectations
for the scope and the scale and the size of this organization going forward. We will
remain focused on our core competencies and on our market. We will constantly pursue sound
growth strategies. I believe that we can compete effectively with any of the major banks.
This is a huge market; we do not need to capture a lot of market share to reach our growth
What should people remember most about 1st Enterprise?
Mr. Black: A key strategy from day one
with this bank was to simultaneously be in the LA and Orange County markets. Most banks
started in LA focus on LA County. Most started in Orange County focus on Orange County.
Because Brian Horton, our president, has spent 20 plus years of his career handling
business relationships in the Orange County market, we had a tremendous following from the
Orange County area from day one. Half of our 75 Founders are from Orange County. Half of
our shareholder base is in Orange County, and our board of directors is split evenly
between Orange County and LA. We have been drawing customers from both of these markets
over the last ten months. This is going to be a key driver in our continued growth.
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