It is time to provide a summary analysis of the former employers and related principals in Goober Gump’s journey from the equipment company through the beginning of the team’s control of its fates a decade later.
I will not divulge confidential financial information from past employers, just discuss the practices that were good or bad, or, that led to them making the decisions they did BIMD. I have provided other links to their publicly reported financial reporting going back in time to when we first began. In addition, you can use the link below to the FDIC website to see the current reporting of every active bank in the system.
In the spirit of Stephen Covey and his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, of which I fully endorse, the autopsies will provide my view of win-win and win-lose in the final results.
I have also added a section on the current banking issues of the day relating to bank examinations. I will try to not get down in the weeds too far with my comments.
Bank #1 – 1994
Links are below to describe.
Patti Steele is the CEO of the rebranded and expanded First Volunteer Bank of Tennessee based in Chattanooga. It is now known as Builtwell Bank. BIMD the privately held bank holding company was named Community Group (CG). The majority owner’s name was Robert Anderson, a long term solid, executive banker from South Carolina whose family were the primary operators and in ownership of a larger South Carolina bank. Robert left the SC bank and purchased a small community bank in the rural community of Marion, TN outside of Chattanooga. From that start and with that bank’s President, Sherman Barnette, he began purchasing small rural community banks in east TN. They added a financial services subsidiary led by my former CEO a few years after forming their holding company for the purposes of doing small business government guaranteed lending. It required state banking regulatory and SBA approval to exist as a service company for the affiliated banks in the CG system as it was the first of its kind in the southeastern U. S. region. During my employment CG grew to about $350 M in total assets size.
Patti was in operations at the holding company level and on the Board when I was employed there. She was the heir apparent, professional and competent with their business model. She reported to Sherman, who reported to Robert. Sherman was a sharp, good ole boy community banker. Robert was a more formal, cordial, old south plantation type with a leadership style from the past. We got along well with each other as we shared a mutual understanding of big banks as well as a love of golf. I had a good relationship with all of the senior leaders. Patti was very competent at what she did, however, her interests were clearly linked to breaking the glass ceiling even BIMD. It seemed to drive her ambitions. In recent years her Board additions have been less than inspiring and more toward feministic purposes, which reveals her politics. They did not add tangible value to the Board or business operations. It is something to keep an eye on as it can lead to losing focus of the bank’s primary purposes, which is to make money for stockholders and service the customer base well. As long as ownership remains focused on those two truths, they should be fine.
The financial services subsidiary I worked in no longer exists. When we exited, it went into decline and died. Its demise coincided with the merging of banks from being operated as affiliate banks, which is reflected in the link below during the fiscal year ending 12/31/2001. In the financial services subsidiary’s place they expanded the reach of their residential mortgage company to serve their now, 30 locations. BIMD there was only one mortgage originator in the system. While merging the bank system in the late 1990s/early 2000s, they renamed all individually named banks to First Volunteer. They have grown through acquisition of other small rural banks in other areas including northern GA over the ensuing two decades. They are old school community bankers with conservative practices, who have served their internal desires and customers well overall. They are now at $1.8 B in assets with a conservative 70% loan to deposit ratio and stay at a ballpark level of 10-11% on Tier One Capital; which is solid. They paid out a strong dividend in excess of $8 M in 2022, to the privately held ownership.
My autopsy reveals they continued to grow through acquisitions at a measured pace while becoming who they desired to be and still are. Our subsidiary’s presence in the holding company was implemented to fuel higher profitability for a season of time so that they could purchase more small rural banks. That was a legitimate choice of ownership and it served them well. It also confirmed that our analysis was correct when they hired the SCO who began tightening credit. Our common goals and interests were diverging, so it was time to go. They would have never accepted nationwide or even a larger eastern footprint delivery of what we did. The higher compensation being paid to the team that delivered it, which was prevalent within the industry, would have created internal division. It simply would have been too big of culture shock to the rest of their employees and Board.
However, at that time it was win-win between us. They signaled their change in direction, which gave us time as a small team to change ours. We both won with the changes.
Bank #2 – 1997
Sierra Tahoe Bancorp was the owner of SierraWest Bank, which came into existence by name a couple of years before we joined them. Its predecessor bank was called Truckee River Bank, which was also very involved in government guaranteed small business lending in the area. The bank grew into the Reno, NV area via acquisition, which led to the name change and was similar to the name of the acquired bank.
Despite the bank’s emphasis on our line of business, Truckee River had a spotty record as a government guaranteed lender until my division CEO was hired a couple of years before our arrival. They did not do it well and had numerous losses and issues with the SBA. He addressed the issues along with his excellent SCO, who was also a fine human being. It all turned around at that point with the division being the primary driver of the bank’s net income and asset growth. The theme of good people, good results, was one that was repeated throughout my work life for many years.
When BancWest, parent of Bank of the West, announced the acquisition of SierraWest, the later had grown from just south of $600 M when we joined them to over $900 M in assets in three years. There were no hiccups with the acquisition as it closed as projected in mid-1999, less than six months after announcement. Which explained why SierraWest allowed Bank of the West to be involved in the credit approval process prior to the completion of the transaction, a reality that led to our early departure as a team.
Since SierraWest did not sell from a distressed position, there is very little financial autopsy needed. The intent to sell was known to us in our region at employment. The bank was profitable and fit BOW’s expansion desires geographically. However, the sale to BOW did impact our futures and forced several members of our region to find alternatives. This led to the second best career move I ever made, with the first being entering this line of work with CG.
I could care less about BOW, then or now. Let Canadian bankers now deal with the effects that the criminal bankers in France created. Based on how Canada operates today, they will continue to be the money launders they have been.
As a result, I rate it as a win-lose-win with eyes wide open. A calculated risk to work there that paid off in unknown ways prior to making the move. SierraWest employees, its stockholders and our team highly benefitted from the relationship. The sale to BOW was a loss for our team. However, we seamlessly recovered with a much bigger win.
Bank #3 – 1999
Imperial Bank was the one. It just made sense as it targeted its efforts and did not try to be all things to all people. However, it had an Achilles heel. By virtue of being a NYSE traded business bank involved in the finance of venture capital related enterprises (think SVB) as well as the entertainment industry (think boom or bust movies) in two of its three primary lines of business, its annual net income was volatile. As a result it was watched by regulators closely. Provided below is summary financial data over a period of years for those interested in more details. As an example of its growth, total assets went from $3.4 to $7.5 B in just five years. You typically cannot grow a bank that fast (unless you are a cabal constructed SVB type bank) with income drivers in volatile lines of business and not have hiccups in net income, liquidity and capital formation due to overall economic pressures. Every boom or bust cycle will be reflected in your financial statement results.
By the time of the transaction with Comerica, the bank had grown to over $8 B in assets. The article below is an excellent summary of the reasons behind same and acquisition. I will not regurgitate it. The acquisition made great sense to Comerica.
The founder and Chairman of Imperial, who was active daily in its management, had hit 81 years of age. It was time. If he had waited until after 9/11 occurred, the bank would have probably gone under at some point. With the acquisition Comerica entered the Top 20 banks in asset size in America. They have doubled in assets since then, but dropped to #38 in asset size today.
As a result, I rate the situation as I did with Bank #2. It was no surprise that our employer sold. It was a total win for both banks. However, Comerica simply did not have the credit culture and leadership team in our line of business. We did not drive their net operating income (NOI) up high enough to justify a real commitment in their minds. Comerica chose to reward themselves as the victors instead of the people who operated our line of business smarter, more productive, while making much more money at it. At Imperial we were not the volatile income producers. We were the second highest provider of ROI in the bank, year after year. The transaction was win-win for the banks and win-lose-win for our division and my team. It was also a very short sighted decision by Comerica to go about it as they did with our division. Like many other bigger banks, they still have no idea on what they missed.
Bank #4 – 2001
When we arrived on the scene with Temecula Valley Bank, it was a small, five year old community bank in the rapidly growing SoCal area. It had the highest 5 star rating for financial condition by industry rating agencies including being rated the #1 small bank in America by same. The Chairman/CEO wanted to use our line of business to fuel growth of bank operations into the real estate markets of the area as well as branching. He had good knowledge of what we did and how we did it from his previous stint as CEO of a larger community bank in the region for many years.
We knew how to scale and ramp up our operation to accommodate the smaller size of the bank. Despite its size, the management team was competent and they contracted their operations system platform to one of the larger, national providers. They could deliver on their promises.
That they immediately changed the rules to the game upon our arrival created tension and was a major red flag. I am sure bank examiners may have been concerned with the scope of our operations due to the bank size as well as there may have been pushback from the Board initially. Regardless, they lied. However, we were able to leverage ourselves into a better situation and became a successful, expanding operation.
The Achilles heel of TVB was its arrogant Chairman/CEO. That ‘I’m smarter that you’ attitude passed to the executive level credit officer, other senior management and Board. They never believed the good times would stop, until it did. With the industry overbuilding real estate in SoCal markets, their hellbent desire to play the dog and build the brand was a train wreck waiting to happen. When liquidity began to be an issue with closing transactions a couple years into our arrival, Mr. Arrogant began to significantly use brokered deposits to add to the deposit base. We could see the handwriting on the wall for our efficiency and success. When banks buy brokered deposits, which is limited by regulators, they pay higher interest rates than market to attract them. The deposits are usually CD’s with longer termed fixed rates called “hot money”. So, what do you think happens when interest rates as a whole decline due to Fed decisions? You earn less interest on loans while paying out higher interest on deposits. Not the formula for banking success I would choose.
So for your banking lesson of the day, add in what happens when the economy cools and there are less borrowings. You now have locked in higher than market fixed rates with hot money and insufficient loan demand to offset it with interest income. The core local business customer balances go down as they use more of their own funds to lower interest expense. When the hot money matures, it leaves unless you price it high again to retain. If it leaves, you lose serious liquidity with a high concentration of real estate development and construction loans on the books that are not being paid off from less property sales due to the local economy cooling. If the hot money is retained you need income drivers to offset the declining interest margins between deposits and loans. All while at the same time, you as Mr. Arrogant, have increased your operating expenses through the increased numbers of branches, related facilities costs/expenses, and increased staff payroll relating to the branches.
This makes any bank any where totally dependent on generating more fee income and reducing its operating expenses to survive if they plan to be prepared to take advantage of an economic rebound in the future. Instead of making things better for our division to provide the high premiums, fee and servicing income, Mr. Arrogant did the opposite. He had also reduced our ability to make non-real estate secured business loans that would have added diversity to the loan portfolio, which was a major desire of the regulators. He doubled down on making real estate loans in SoCal while expanding the branch network. For awhile he could brag about how smart he was… until he couldn’t with the debt market and general economic crash of 2008.
Our regional team left in the fall of 2003. My former division CEO left about six months later to begin operations of the company he started. We left TVB a few production officers in our region who were lesser performers, who began sending their loans to the credit area in Temecula. They never reopened a regional credit and loan closing operation in the east. They hired a less accomplished replacement for our former division CEO in mid 2004. He lasted a few years before leaving as the bank started into serious decline. The top credit officer retired and was replaced by a rogue, possible criminal that Mr. Arrogant hired. The bank had grown to $1.4 B in assets by this point, ten times the size it was when we were first hired. The debt market melt down of Wall Street had occurred and with it the national economy. So, let’s see what the FDIC’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) wrote in their official autopsy. This is highly worth your time to read as a behind the scenes view of how it all works. Please at least read the opening summary.
I am confident this could be used as a case study in banking schools nationwide of what not to do. It was complete vindication for us and our line of business. With the collapse and closure in 2009, Mr. Arrogant was relieved of his duties. The force of his personality and cronyism kept him in the seat for far too long. The stockholders and employees lost out as a result.
The experience was another win-lose-win from my viewpoint. Despite the early lies, we were able to restore the pre-employment agreement and go on to be successful. When the bank first began experiencing liquidity issues, we had sufficient time to negotiate our way into an even better situation. However, we did not expect it to become necessary when we first arrived there. With the stock options and solid plan forward, we thought it would be a long term stay. We did not count on the insatiable greed and arrogance of Mr. Arrogant and crew taking over as it did. Which is a shame, but very common in the industry.
This section was not originally planned to be in this story. However, current conditions merit its inclusion. It was pertinent BIMD and especially so today.
Bank examiners are people like all of us. They have special knowledge and training. They also have personal goals, ambitions, families, friends, strengths and weaknesses. The have various levels of competency. During my years of being employed in banking, I only met a couple who had made the profession a career. I saw a good number who used it as a stepping stone into careers in banks, investment banking, insurance, rating agencies such as Moody’s/S&P/Fitch and so on. That made their motivations and attention to detail suspect at times.
I have experienced examiners openly lobbying for jobs in our credit and audit departments. I had a couple who became cheerleaders for us within their agencies. With our departure from TVB and acceptance of employment with the Tennessee bank, one state banking commission official told our Chairman/CEO that he should lock me and my key management up on long term contracts, to not let us get away, with me standing there with the two of them. I had one FDIC examiner tell me that we were not making enough loans for sale to the debt markets about six months before the crash.
Think about what my last statement infers. He was stating that we were not churning enough, not making enough money. I learned later he told our ownership and CEO the same thing in their exit interview. At that point our division was providing 80% of the NOI of the total bank; making more money than ownership believed possible a few years before. But here is the lead FDIC examiner stating we were not doing enough.
As a result of these experiences, it never left my mind that sprinkled throughout these regulatory and rating agencies were globalist cabal operatives even BIMD. It is incestuous by nature. If the banks do not do much business, the examiners have nothing much to examine. That exposes them to extreme boredom as well as job loss eventually from RIFs. Rating agencies have a similar issue. If they rate a bank, company, debt issue, securitization, etc. too critically, their client will never use them again. As an example our favorite rating agency for what we did was Fitch. They attempted to understand the business and as a result, the underlying loans in our pools. The other two majors were useless for our purposes BIMD.
So the key for both the bank and the examiners is to maintain an arms length, mutually respectful harmony between them, which happened frequently in my younger years and rarely in my later years. The later situation leads to excesses that can be nudged forward or destroyed by the examiners. Add to it that through the years I saw very few gray hairs remaining as examiners. If the role was truly a life’s profession, that a person could make a rewarding career of it; then there would be more talent and more experienced people in the role. That was not the case. The revolving door led to lower cost, less experienced personnel. As the years rolled by I saw fewer who did not fraternize with the leaders of the banks they examined. Occasionally you would see one later employed by a contract audit or management consulting firm to place their stamp of approval on a client bank or its loan portfolio as the recognized expert in the field.
There will be more discussion on this in future stories.
If you reviewed the OIG report on TVB, you could simply replace their headlong pursuit of real estate financing with what SVB did with their emphasis on higher risk lines of business in the Silicon Valley among other places. Neither took their foot off the gas pedal and pushed the brake pedal until it was too late. The end result was the same along with many of the contributing factors. It is a situation that keeps repeating year after year, bank after bank, and as a direct result of Federal Reserve and politician aided booms and busts.
The FDIC and California bank examiners had every reason and justification to pull the plug on Mr. Arrogant’s practices long before they did. But they did not, just like SVB. If we knew of serious issues as key officers of the bank in 2003, they had to know when they completed their next exam in 2004 after performing their stress tests, financial and operations reviews. These were duties they continued to perform annually until TVB failed five years later. They even categorized TVB as “Well Capitalized” from 2006-2008. Yet, they failed the next year. Yeah, OK.
I don’t view what I witnessed over 30+ years in this area as accidental, incompetency related, or an inconsistent application of regulations. I see it is as a system feature. Consider the huge implications.
i have disclosed a lot from Goober’s banking employment adventures over about a nine year period. With each new employer the team grew and became better at what they did. They were never forced out or terminated by the employer. Even in the more strained or incompetently managed situations where they chose to leave, the leaders wanted them to stay. They left because conditions changed from decisions made by ownership and/or executive management that signaled that it was time to look around. There was never an employment situation that they accepted when they were not prepared in their minds to walk away, while at the same time hoping they would not have to anytime soon.
They felt like Abraham and family as he moved from place to place at the Lord’s direction while experiencing inexplicable events. They learned to accept that was in the DNA of the industry. It did not have to be, it just was. With their move to the TN bank and control of operations, they all hoped that would end and they could do something that would last long term.
Remember this as we move the story forward.
Blessings to all.
Thank you so much for all that you share with us…
It is late and the time change always messes up my head… the weekend and today have me exhausted! So, I have skimmed your words with a promise to read again tomorrow.
So one online said that this bank fail thing is slowing down, and we should use this window to prepare… wise words, right? Praying for all of us… Blessings on you and yours TB…
Thank you, phoenix, and likewise to you. Thank you for all your contributions on here.
Hopefully, these banking stories will help people see that on a lesser level, banks and credit unions in general are not the problem. Greed and common sense are the problems when the smaller banks do fail.
The globalist banksters are the problem. The desire to rule the world will destroy the system.
if it maintains its present trajectory, the system will eventually fail because of what Proverbs says, do not be a servant of debt.
My belief and hope it that when and if it happens, we will relearn the value of community as well as love for God and one another to survive.
Just as a note on the 2010 FDIC postmortem — on page 3, you find the sentence, “TVB failed because its Board of Directors (Board) and management did not implement
adequate controls to identify, measure, monitor, and control the risks associated with the
bank’s significant growth and concentrations in CRE loans and, in particular, ADC loans.”
This sentence — particularly the phrase “implement adequate controls to” — clearly identifies the report as being influenced by Sarbanes-Oxley (2002). Just look at how much clearer the sentence reads without those four words. Also note how such a change correctly focuses responsibility with the Board and management shunning their core duties, rather than some management consulting la-di-dah relating to COSO.
I look at every one partnering in the bank and realize this seems to be a shell game and money laundering operation. Newsom included. Newsom’s wife. Vanguard, BlackRock…the usual suspects.
They overplayed their hand and want our government to bail them out with middle income taxpayer money.
Cripes, when can we all get on good night’s sleep?
You get it.
Wait until you read this one…
March 13, 2023 4:11 pm
All roads lead to Dimokkkrat money laundering.
THE SILICON VALLEY BANK COVERUP – AND THE ROADS LEADING TO GOV. GAVIN NEWSOMThe bank just deleted their Twitter account. So much for transparency from a bank that is now 100-percent backed by taxpayers.
Silicon Valley Bank’s “Behested” $100,000 Gift To Newsom’s Nonprofit
Our auditors at OpenTheBooks.com found that California Governor Gavin Newsom, through a nonprofit organization his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom founded, the California Partners Project, has very close ties to the bank.
In 2021, SVB gave $100,000 in corporate gifts to the Newsom nonprofit. These gifts are so intertwined with the Newsom’s that they are listed as a matter of California ethics law on a state government website, California Fair Political Practices Commission.
All nonprofit donors are listed on the state website if they are “behested” gifts. The term “behested” means “at the request, suggestion, or solicitation of, or made in cooperation, consultation, coordination or concert with the public official.”
In this case, it’s the governor who behested the Silicon Valley Bank $100,000 gift. It’s the governor who requested, suggested, solicitated or cooperated, coordinated or acted in concert to procure the gift. However, the mandatory-state-disclosed conflict-of-interest listing also names his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. That’s because, Mrs. Newsom, is also a public official, the first ever “The First Partner.”
Siebel Newsom’s public duties including running the Office of First Partner which was created by the governor shortly after inauguration. Since 2019, the governor allocated nine staffers and nearly $5 million in taxpayer funds for his wife’s office… ~
PS, one person was interviewed on Fox this afternoon…I would need research. The Closing Bell? And attributed this to NOT BEING A BANK. A FRATERNITY.
These would be more suited for the SVB thread, and not the BIMD autopsies thread. Should I try to cut’n’paste ’em over there?
Not certain what you are asking?
Whatever you can do.
We have a real problem.
OK, I pasted ’em over there. I hope you approve of how they came out. I did the best I could.
Bless you, ct…
No worries. They were good comments about SVB and I didn’t think they’d get seen that much in this thread.
Very astute of you, my friend.
I made a mental note to never think about all of those banking acts again once I retired. Yet, here we are…
📈 📉 💰
Thanks for your stories! Seems as the auditors get younger, the oversight gets worse.
I would say, rather, that as audits get more regulated — another name for politicized — the oversight gets worse.
The young auditors were very competent and much more in tune with technology driven concerns as well. But the rules of engagement changed per the regulations as Coothie stated below. Which is one of two major causes of the poor oversight effect you noticed.
The other is the lack of experience. Since it was not a career type job, the intentions and resulting turnover of the younger, talented examiners was high.