Montecito Bank & Trust wrote the latest chapter in the saga of regional banking when it announced late July 18 that it was adding Union Bank’s veteran leader George Leis to its executive team.
Leis, who chairs the CSU Channel Islands Foundation board, becomes chief operating officer reporting to President and CEO Janet Garufis. His portfolio includes lending, retail and business banking activities and he was named to the bank’s executive committee.
“George Leis will make an important contribution to our team from day one, as we continue to deliver exceptional service and leadership while being even more involved in supporting the Central Coast communities than we are today,” said owner and Chairman Michael Towbes in a statement.
Leis joined Union as the head of its Central Coast region after negotiating the $1.5 billion sale of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust’s parent company to Union in 2012. It was and remains the largest banking deal in the region’s history. Leis survived several rounds of post-merger job cuts and most recently served as the managing director of Union’s Private Banking division.
With 10 branches and nearly $1.3 billion in assets under management, Montecito Bank & Trust is the second largest bank based in the Tri-Counties and the largest privately-owned bank between Los Angeles and the Bay Area.
By hiring Leis, Montecito Bank & Trust gets an executive with high visibility in a number of philanthropic roles in addition to the Channel Islands board. And it continues to demonstrate a disciplined approach to growth, preferring to add talent rather than make acquisitions.
Over the years, Garufis and Towbes have recruited Jeff Paul from Rabobank to oversee retail and lending and Jeff Pittman from Wells Fargo to run wealth management.
Hiring Leis “represents a quantum leap forward for our bank,” Towbes said. Leis said his new post “aligns with my skill set, personality, as well as my desire to be deeply involved in the community.”
Garufis said she and Leis worked together at Security Pacific National Bank and Bank of America and have nearly 30 years history as colleagues and competitors. “He knows how to roll up his sleeves and get the job done,” she said in a statement.
Union Bank, with the largest branch network in the region, a vast deposit base, strong corporate banking assets and high visibility in the community, took Leis’ departure in stride.
Spokesman Dan Weidman said Vince Caballero, a longtime South Coast banker, will be regional manager and community outreach leader.
“George played an instrumental role during Union Bank’s acquisition of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust and he was key in helping Union Bank expand in the Central Coast market,” said Weidman. “We wish George well as he takes on this new role in Santa Barbara’s banking community.”
Leis started his career with Security Pacific National Bank, before taking leadership positions at Bank of America Private Bank, Wells Fargo, Deutsche Bank and Pacific Capital.
The past year has seen three smaller banks, County Commerce in Oxnard, Coast National in San Luis Obispo and the Bank of Santa Barbara merge with larger firms. When it comes to banking on the Central Coast, the one thing you can count on is change.
• Reach Editor Henry Dubroff at [email protected]