May 28, 2024
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Bravery in early Santa Barbara banking

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David Spainhour, who played a lead role in the rise of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust to become the region’s dominant banking institution in the 1990s and early 2000s, died in Santa Barbara on May 28. He was 91.

Spainhour, a native of Los Angeles, took the biggest risk of his career in the 1960s when he left Security Pacific Bank to join Santa Barbara National Bank, a small community bank with an affluent clientele.He rose from controller to vice president and when teamed with Don Anderson, a midwestern banker with an eye for borrowers with solid credit and growth prospects, the pair proved to be a formidable combination.

Beginning in the late 1980s, when Spainhour was elected president of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, the bank found ways to expand its reach into north Santa Barbara County and then into Ventura County, when it opened three de novo branches and raked in millions of dollars in deposits in a short period. He also played a lead role in a string of successful mergers and acquisitions. Eventually the SBB&T holding company, Pacific Capital Bancorp., had 43 branches in six counties, stretching from the southern edge of the Bay Area to the Los Angeles County line.

After Spainhour retired as board chair, the bank made an ill-timed expansion into real estate lending out of its market and it was recapitalized in 2010 when the Ford Financial Group bought a 90% stake. The community banking philosophy of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust left a legacy that’s been followed by institutions helmed by its many alumni. Its 40-plus branch network, trust and investment operations have survived largely intact with ownership passing earlier this year from Union Bank to U.S. Bank. Just as important, Spainhour lived long enough to enjoy his grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.