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Sterling Bank to rename branches in California

Tue., Aug. 13, 2013

Sterling Financial Corp. will rename its California operations under the Argent Bank brand.

The decision reflects a push by Spokane-based Sterling to grow operations in California, said company President and COO Ezra Eckhardt.

The move affects three separate bank purchases in California. Borrego Springs Bank and Sonoma National Bank – acquired earlier by Sterling – will be renamed Argent beginning in September.

Commerce National Bank, based in Southern California, will be renamed after Sterling completes its $42.9 million purchase later this year.

Together the three bank companies have 16 branches, most of them in the San Francisco area.

While Sterling operates under the name Sterling Bank in Washington, Oregon and Idaho, it can’t use its own name in California because a different bank, Sterling Bank and Trust, continues to operate.

Eckhardt noted that Sterling is taking an active approach to expanding its presence in California. A common theme and brand will provide a consistent and common name for its banks there, he said.

The company has rebounded from the recession with steady profits over the last two years. At the same time, Eckhardt acknowledged that any West Coast bank looking ahead must regard the populous California market as too big to ignore.

As of the second quarter of 2013, Sterling had approximately $835 million in deposits and about $2.3 billion in assets in California. It has roughly $2.7 billion in assets in Washington, according to spokeswoman Cara Coon.

Its collective assets come to $9.9 billion, with only 1.7 percent of those considered nonperforming in the most recent quarter.

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