VACAVILLE -- Travis Credit Union has increased its efforts in business lending, creating a new vice president position to guide the $1.9 billion institution’s commercial banking strategy.

The appointment of Francine Boards to the newly created role of vice president of business lending is the latest step in an expansion of commercial offerings that first began in 2004, said Barry Nelson, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Travis Credit Union.

“A lot of the reason we got into commercial lending in 2004 was because more of our members started asking for it,” Mr. Nelson said. When the recession severely impacted both businesses and lenders, “It caused our board and senior management to regroup and say ‘Are we serious about this?’ We decided that we are. It may be needed more than ever now.”

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Prior to 2004, the 60-year-old Travis Credit Union focused primarily on retail lending. Today, eight years after turning an eye towards business, approximately 10 percent of the institution’s $1 billion loan portfolio is connected to commercial lending, Mr. Nelson said.

While retail banking assets currently dwarf commercial loans, Ms. Boards noted that the $100 million in commercial assets was comparable in size to many community lenders. Similarly, maintaining the high-touch approach of a community institution would remain a strong priority for the growing commercial operation, she said.

“It’s not like we’re lending and not knowing what’s going on in our own back yard,” said Ms. Boards.

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Having served as senior commercial credit officer at Travis Credit Union since 2009, Ms. Boards said that there has been a steady demand for commercial financing in recent years. Recently, much of that demand has been driven by borrowers seeking to refinance debt through the SBA’s temporary 504 Loan Refinancing Program.

“With the interest rates being so low, it has actually provided a huge opportunity for debt refinancing,” said Ms. Boards.

The credit union received “preferred lender” status from the SBA approximately six years ago, allowing for faster in-house processing of small business loans backed by the federal administration, Mr. Nelson said.

With the reorganization of the commercial operation, Travis Credit Union will also recruit a commercial loan officer for the regions it refers to as Fairfield West, Vacaville and Contra Costa County. Those officers will help in loan development, assisting employees that formerly held dual roles on the commercial and retail side, Mr. Nelson said.

Travis Credit Union expanded its assets and physical footprint after completing the acquisition of Concord’s Metro 1 Credit Union in 2011. The move added $177.4 million in assets and $169.4 million in deposits to its portfolio, as well as 17,000 members and three branches.

Today, the institution operates 22 branches across 12 counties, including Solano, Sonoma and Napa counties. It is the 12th largest credit union in California, with more than 175,000 members.