February 23, 2024
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American Riveria expands presence with new Santa Maria bank


American Riveria’s newest branch in Santa Maria opened on Feb. 1. (Courtesy photo)

Following a successful launch at the beginning of February, American Riviera Bank’s new outpost in Santa Maria is set to meet the diverse financial needs of a region rapidly expanding both economically and as a community.

And in just that short time, things are going well, if not better than expected, executives at the bank told the Business Times.

The new branch is the result of meticulous planning and geographical calculations. After success in the northern part of the tri-counties, American Riveria saw the potential for growth in the northern part of Santa Barbara County.

“About four years ago, we decided to open a bank in Paso Robles… and they were so hugely successful, a year and a half after that we decided to open an office in San Luis Obispo and they were also hugely successful,” Joanne Funari, the Chief Operating Officer of American Riviera Bank, said.

“With the branches spanning all the way to Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo, we realized we were still missing a couple of spots. We were missing Santa Maria and the Santa Ynez area. So, we were able to bring on a really terrific individual in Santa Maria and we had the opportunity and we decided to go for it.”

Part of what made their Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo openings were some of the people they hired to run those branches, Funari said.

That is no different this time around with the company bringing on key names such as Marian Lavagnino, Renee Howard, Mark Ingoglia and Scott Bell.

Lavagnino serves as a Vice President and Banking Relationship Officer. Lavagnino has a 40-year history in the banking industry and is a Santa Maria local.

Howard is Vice President and Small Business Administration Manager with over 20 years of experience in the banking industry, and a good chunk of that time was spent on the SBA lending side.

Ingoglia will serve as Vice President and Commercial Lending Officer and comes with over fifteen years of experience in commercial banking. Ingoglia intends to work closely with clients to deliver specific value-based financial solutions meant to help individuals and businesses achieve their financial goals.

Bell, as Vice President and SBA Business Development Officer, brings nearly three decades of experience in SBA lending and has helped fund over $100 million in SBA financing over the years.

“It’s a great community bank. They take care of their employees and really care about everybody that works for them,” Bell said. “So, it’s really nice to work for a community bank like that.”

As for the transition into Santa Maria, Bell would say it’s going smoothly.

“We just think it’s a unique opportunity to service Santa Maria and have a local presence,” he said.

Funari added that the expansion is even going beyond their initial expectations.

“Santa Maria is really a growing area. It’s been expanding in market share and the market potential there has grown pretty dramatically. Market share potential has increased 7% since 2021. And the business opportunities in Santa Maria are endless,” she said.

The area sports over 10,000 businesses and of those, several are small businesses. That’s why American Riviera has a dedicated SBA department.

As the leading Small Business Administration loan lender to the region, American Riviera helps small businesses expand and operate smoothly by helping them build a shared understanding of the unique needs of local businesses and the communities they serve.

Santa Maria has seen practically exponential growth in recent decades, with a 40.1% increase in the population over the last two decades, Santa Maria has surpassed Santa Barbara as the most populous city in the county, according to the California Department of Finance and U.S. Census Bureau.

American Riviera’s new commercial banking center in the Santa Maria region will provide loan options for individuals looking to open new businesses, grow current enterprises, and build or renovate homes among others.

The businesses that make use of these banking services run the gamut from law firms to property management to agriculture.

“The city of Santa Maria is planning on adding 16,000 new housing units, something that will be great for the community. They expect this will draw an additional 50,000 residents by 2040. And with the Vandenberg Space Force Base adjacent to the Santa Maria area, it’s a perfect fit for our SBA and our mortgage department,” said Funari.

Regarding precautions being taken for a potential recession, American Riviera’s clientele remains cautiously optimistic as they grow and continue to be profitable.

“People are getting used to the higher rates because they’ve been so low for so long. Many people haven’t seen rates where they are now,” Bell said.

“So, it has been an adjustment to individuals when they actually see where rates are today, as opposed to where they were, but I think it’s going to level off and people will get used to having rates where they are now.”

Email: mbenn@pacbiztimes.com

Correction: A previous version of this article had the word “prescence” in the headline.