Edible Monterey Bay

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Santa Cruz County Bank Expands to Monterey in a Difficult Year

This year has been the most challenging in recent memory for business owners and residents around the Monterey Bay. Despite the devastation caused by recent wildfires and COVID-19, Santa Cruz County Bank is doing all it can to offer financial guidance during these troubled times.

More than one-third of the bank’s employees had to evacuate from their homes due to recent fires, according to Mary Anne Carson, senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted.”

The bank has devoted a new page on its website to local information on wildfire recovery and disaster assistance, and staff members are ready to help residents in any way they can. Click here for the information page, or call the bank directly at 831.457.5000 if you are in need of financial assistance due to the wildfires.

Artist rendering of new Monterey branch of Santa Cruz County Bank on Munras Ave.

To better serve the greater Monterey Bay region, Santa Cruz County Bank recently opened a new branch in Monterey. A temporary meeting room for clients and staff has been set up at 288 Pearl Street while work is progressing on the permanent full-service branch office at 584 Munras Ave. in downtown Monterey.

In its first week since opening, customers have already applied for loans and several have been successfully processed, says Rich Aiello, regional manager for the Monterey office and SCCB vice president.

Monterey regional manager Rich Aiello

“People are very enthusiastic about the new branch,” says Aiello, part of a long-time Monterey fishing family. “There’s a long list of people who can’t wait for the new branch to open—they’re excited and looking forward to the grand opening in January 2021.” The bank is also looking to expand into Salinas in the near future.

As a community bank, SCCB is motivated to help local businesses succeed. When the pandemic and the resulting financial crisis hit this area, Santa Cruz County Bank staffers worked long hours to secure Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for small businesses throughout the area, and the bank was one of the few that would process the loans for new as well as existing customers.

“Our staff dug in, they stayed up late, we had marathon weekends and nights to process the loans,” Carson notes. “They worked throughout the night when they heard the money was drying up.”

Locally-based financial institutions like SCCB are uniquely positioned to serve their clients in a more individual and personal way. At mega-banks, “There isn’t always the expertise, or they may not serve certain sectors, and that makes room for us,” she explains.

SCCB, established in 2004, took a major leap forward in 2019 when it merged with Lighthouse Bank. With the merger, there are now six Santa Cruz County branches, one Silicon Valley branch, and eight ATMs. 

With assets currently exceeding $1 billion, the bank has enhanced lending capacity that enables it to support the regional business community in new and exciting ways, by providing more funds to help businesses get off the ground, or to launch to the next level.

Although SCCB serves the needs of a diverse business community, its bankers have a special interest and expertise in farming and agribusiness. Clients from Salinas and Monterey had already been working with the bank prior to the opening of the Monterey branch, and Carson says it’s been a natural progression to open a branch in Monterey County to meet this need.

Says Aiello, “I’m anticipating that we’ll have customers all the way down the Salinas Valley … I’m getting a lot of calls from people in the ag industry.”

Interior of Monterey branch opening January 2021

As a community bank, SCCB’s mission is not only to serve financial needs, but to promote the welfare of the community at large. 

In 2019 the bank made cash contributions to many worthy causes and its employees volunteered to work, raise funds, and serve on the boards and committees of more than 150 community-based organizations. All told, SCCB employees volunteered more than 600 hours to community service projects. 

It’s all part of the relationship between SCCB and its community, and its determination to invest in the region that it serves.

“Community banks are really the ones who are stepping up to help small business,” says Carson, who notes that SCCB works one-on-one with its business clients and is able to be much more responsive than the average bank. “We listen to the customer, and we can get creative and find a solution.”

SCCB branches offer the same products and services that mega-banks do, but in a more personalized way. Although SCCB’s expertise is in business banking, many customers also rely on it for their personal banking, and can take advantage of either online banking services or in person at the branches. 

Going forward, SCCB pledges to continue investing its resources to advance business growth, affect positive change, and stimulate economic vitality in the communities it serves. And its staff members are standing by, ready to offer aid and assistance now and into the future.

Says Carson, “People never forget, when they’re in a crisis, who steps up for them.”

Santa Cruz County Bank • sccountybank.com • 831.457.5000

About the author

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Kathryn McKenzie, who grew up in Santa Cruz and now lives on a Christmas tree farm in north Monterey County, writes about the environment, sustainable living and health for numerous publications and websites. She is the co-author of “Humbled: How California’s Monterey Bay Escaped Industrial Ruin.”