The Cambrian

It’s Your Business: We’ve got three branches: You can bank on it!

Too much bad press has made bankers gun shy. Out of three institutions, I only scored one interview for this profile on Cambria's banks. Our branch managers aren’t to blame, though, because all had to refer me to corporate spokespeople. .

Undaunted, I’ve done enough research to offer quick snapshots of our three local banks. First, a statistic. According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, whose records are public, Bank of America (BofA) and Rabobank each hold $57 million in Cambria deposits, with Heritage Oaks Bank (HO) claiming $35 million. HO is newer and smaller, but the big guys mustn’t sell it short.

For starters, this Paso Robles-based bank is big on small business. Its newspaper ads share success stories of county entrepreneurs. HO also offers a Web site that’s informative and easily navigated. Senior Vice President of Sales/Marketing Mitch Massey declined an interview, but he e-mailed me their guiding service philosophy.

HO promises to help customers achieve their goals via a staff who can make personal connections with everyone. HO also heavily supports Cambria community service activities, from hosting Chamber of Commerce mixers, to establishing donation accounts for ill or injured Cambrians.

Rabobank is also a solid community citizen. When the former Mid-State Bank sold to a global giant, many feared a cookie cutter bank branch. But despite a new logo on everything, it’s hometown service as usual.

An interview with Rabobank’s Regional President Steve Harding found that the bank’s regional management is still in Arroyo Grande, and that all Cambria branch officers have served here for at least 20 years. Rabobank California is its own entity, backed by the parent’s rare AAA credit rating “We’re still making consumer loans,” Harding explained, adding that they’re helping Cambria’s retailers survive hard times, including providing courier service for deposits. Agribusiness financing is a special strength; and for wary personal investors, Harding cites Rabobank’s conservative trust and investment division. Finally, he boasted, “Our online banking service is the best in the business.”

Speaking of online bank presence, Bank of America offers an array of services: You can open and manage all kinds of accounts online; choose from several credit cards, some with payback features; establish a college savings account for your child or grandchild or set up an investment brokerage account among other services.

Bank of America is proverbially as old as the California hills, having been founded by an Italian immigrant back in the Gold Rush days. It’s everywhere now, hence the too-busy spokesperson in Seattle. But, Cambria’s branch still shines. My husband has always banked with BofA, in both business and personal accounts, as did his mother and grandmother. The institution’s long history inspires confidence in him and a large share of Cambria depositors, and he says that local staffers are always warm and accommodating. The bank’s East Village location is also a plus for many Cambrians, and the bank makes a special effort to welcome our Spanishspeaking residents. Gracias!