Breaking a five-year drought for South Coast companies, Montecito Bank & Trust owner Michael Towbes won a coveted Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award for Greater Los Angeles.
The awards were presented June 22 at the Beverly Hilton hotel. Towbes, who celebrated his 80th birthday last year, was the winner in the Financial Services category, besting competitors in gold investing and the financing of charter schools. In addition to owning Montecito Bank & Trust, he one of the most successful real estate investors in the history of the tri-county region.
“We are successful because of the communities we live in,” said Towbes, whose philosophy has been to operate principally in areas that are no more than an hour’s driving distance from his Santa Barbara base of operations.
Among his biggest innovations is a Community Dividends program that gives at least $1 million a year in bank profits directly to non-profits in the region.
“We have an opportunity to give back to the community,” he said. “We try to do that in a very large way.”
He said his conservative approach to lending — which has made Montecito Bank & Trust one of the few profitable banks in the region — comes from direct experience in the real estate market.
“I am not a banker, but I am a very savvy borrower,” he said.
The last winner of the EOY awards from the South Coast was Inogen, a Goleta-based biomedical device startup, in 2005. Prior winners from the Tri-Counties include J.D. Power & Associates, Sage Publications, Select Personnel Services, GBMI, Moseley Associates and ValueClick.