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Union Bank is opening its first full-service branch in Sonoma in May. It will be the San Francisco-headquartered bank’s fourth North Bay location.

The branch will be at 500 Broadway or what the Sonoma County Historical Society calls the 120-year-old “old bank building." It is Sonoma's oldest bank building and was most recently occupied by Morgan Lane Real Estate.

Union Bank has been a commercial lender in Sonoma Valley for several years, but this is its first full-service branch to open in Sonoma County.

To date, the bank has hired Molly Fedorchak as branch manager and Ulku Barrett as priority banking manager, both Sonoma locals.

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Sterling Financial Corp., owner of Sonoma Bank in Santa Rosa, last week said it is in active negotiations with several private equity investors, its major creditors and its regulators about various strategic alternatives designed to put Sterling on a sound financial footing and to allow it to recapitalize and grow its business.

As part of the plan, Sterling requested and received a letter from the U.S. Department of the Treasury of its support to convert the Sterling preferred stock that Treasury holds into Sterling common stock.

Additionally, Sterling said it has received several nonbinding proposals from private-equity firms and has entered into a nonbinding letter of intent with one firm to provide additional capital to Sterling.

“We continue to make progress toward raising capital and improving our financial condition. We are encouraged by the positive recognition of the value of Sterling’s franchise and the continued loyalty of the customers and the communities we serve,” said Greg Seibly, president and chief executive officer of Sterling Financial. “Treasury’s expression of support for this proposed conversion of its preferred stock is a significant step in Sterling’s capital recovery plan.”

Sterling’s recovery plan is expected to include a restructuring of its capital and liabilities. As such, Sterling has been actively engaged with two of its major stakeholders, the owners of its outstanding trust preferred securities, or TruPS, and Treasury, which holds preferred stock that Sterling issued as part of Treasury’s Capital Purchase Program and which was designed to support the health of the nation’s banking sector.

In its letter, Treasury set forth several conditions for its approval of the conversion of the Treasury-owned securities to common equity.

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Circle Bank last week announced it completed the acquisition of property to house its headquarters at 999 Grant Ave. in Novato. The privately held bank did not disclose the purchase price.

[caption id="attachment_19518" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Kim Kaselionis"][/caption]

“We are pleased that we can now begin the process to help create a downtown gateway,” said Kim Kaselionis, president and chief executive officer of the bank

Ms. Kaselionis said current plans call for a full-service Circle Bank branch, executive offices, retail space that will be leased to other tenants on the ground floor and a move in date of 2012.

Circle Bank, which had first proposed buying the site in 2002, has agreed to work from architectural design previously approved by the Novato Planning Commission.

“Novato deserves a hub building and as the economy begins its recovery, we’re pleased that we will be providing construction jobs now and opportunities for other businesses when it opens,” Ms. Kaselionis said.

Meanwhile, Ms. Kaselionis was one of two representatives from California selected to serve on the Community Bankers Council of the American Bankers Association.

Ms. Kaselionis went with 85 bankers in Washington, D.C., March 16-18 to review how the $30 billion “community bank fund” mentioned by President Obama in his State of the Union message will be translated into an active program. The council represents the nation’s more than 7,000 community banks.

“It is extremely important that Congress understands the importance of community banks to the economy and does not implement broad stroke legislation in the bank arena because of the controversial actions of larger national banks,” Ms. Kaselionis said.

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Redwood Credit Union is celebrating National Credit Union Youth Week by hosting free financial seminars for children, teens and parents.

“National Credit Union Youth Week provides us a great opportunity to educate young people about financial matters in a fun and exciting way. Engaging them with fun opportunities like Credit Union Youth Week is the first step in helping them develop responsible money habits at a early age, which will benefit them for a lifetime,” said Lee Alderman, assistant vice president of educational development at RCU.

Youth Week is April 18-24 and there will be seminars on saving, spending and being smart with money. There will also be raffles and giveaways.

For more information, visit www.redwoodcu.org

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[caption id="attachment_19519" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Laura Jensen"][/caption]

Redwood Credit Union recently named Laura Jensen as business development manager. In her new role, Ms. Jensen will develop, implement and manage all key aspects of the credit union’s business development efforts.

Ms. Jensen has more than 20 years of management experience in the financial services industry, most recently as vice president of sales and marketing for 1st Pacific Credit Union in Vallejo. She actively volunteers and participates in community efforts such as the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk, the Human Race and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.

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Richard Abbey, senior partner at Abbey, Weitzenberg, Warren & Emery in Santa Rosa, was appointed to the board of directors of Exchange Bank.

Mr. Abbey replaces Charles Bartley, who resigned in December 2009 after serving 40 years.

He holds a B.S. with honors in business administration from U.C. Berkeley and a juris doctorate degree from the UCLA School of Law.

Mr. Abbey serves as a member of the education committee for the Sonoma County Bar Association, is a member of arbitration panel for Attorney-Client Fee Disputes, the State Bar of California, American Bar Association and is also a Judge Pro Tem, Sonoma County Superior Court.

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Submit items for this column to Jenna V. Loceff at jloceff@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4259 or fax 707-521-5292.