Checking in with...California Republic Bank:

John DeCero and his partner Jon Wilcox founded California Republic Bank nearly two years ago in Newport Beach.

The bank provides all types of services from private and business to commercial and real estate loans. California Republic Bank has an old way of banking mixed with all the new technology that allowed it to stand on its own during the economic downturn without needing help from the government.

Clients at California Republic Bank work with one relationship business manager that handles all their needs. DeCero serves as the vice chairman and Wilcox is the chief executive.

DeCero sat down with the Daily Pilot for a Q and A.

Why did you create this bank?

Jon and I worked with Mark Rebal, the chief credit officer, for about 12 years at a bank that we sold to Wachovia. We built the commercial banking group of Western Financial Bank. The owner of Western Financial sold it to Wachovia, and we started working on putting this bank together. We created this bank, where we now have a great influence on the future success of this bank.

What do you mean by having a great influence?

We really felt that there was a need in the market place for a bank to provide direct access to credit decision makers and be responsive to customers who wanted opportunistic loans and lines in Southern California.

Is this need lacking in Southern California?

It’s difficult to communicate directly with decision makers at some of the larger banks. At our bank, our customers have the benefit to talk directly to us.

How did you start this bank?

The management of the bank made a significant investment along with other shareholders. We have 315 shareholders who invested in the bank for a total capitalization of $52 million. We have two regional hubs, one in Beverly Hills and this one here in Newport Beach. We are very customer service focused and we are one of the safest banks in the country if not the safest today.

What do you mean by safest?

On three measures: Core capital ratio, liquid asset and total liability. We have zero none-performing loans.

How did you manage to have zero none-performing loans so far?

We deal with individuals and companies that have significant recurring cash loans and who have positioned themselves for a downturn like we’re seeing in the economy today. Our customers want a bank that was as conservative as they were, a bank that positioned itself well in good times and in bad. We started with much more capital than most banks start with, and we’ve grown almost solely with core deposit, not broker deposit.

How did the downturn of the economy affect you?

The economy took a downturn almost immediately after the bank was formed. Today we have over $212 million of assets, total core deposit of $166 million. The way we did that was through building long-term relationships throughout Southern California. We have been in this market place for well over 20 years in commercial banking both in Los Angeles and Orange County and we’ve built tremendous long term relationships that we were able to drive into this bank. It’s all been word of mouth.

What is your advise for large banks that tanked as a result of the downturn?

I would say the best advise is to build strong long-term relationships with good borrowers and good clients, and listen to your clients and their needs and work with your clients for a mutually beneficial solution to some of their issues today. I also think patience is key as well.


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