With high hopes for the direction of Napa County's economy, Richmond-based Mechanics Bank is expecting that a new branch in the city of Napa will be among the bank's top three most productive offices in the next five to 10 years, according to a bank spokeswoman.

Opened in early June, the branch is the third Napa County location for the $3.3-billion institution. Mechanics Bank entered the Napa market with a first branch in the city of Napa more than 16 years ago, and now also operates a branch in St. Helena, said spokeswoman Hatti Hamlin.

Today, Mechanics Bank counts more than 50 wineries among its clients in Napa, said Michael Downer, vice chairman of the bank.

"We have slowly but surely grown our presence in this market," said Mr. Downer, a Napa resident. "Napa County has watered the economic recession well."

The branch, at 3350 California Blvd., will be headed by lifelong Napa resident and city councilman Alfredo Pedroza. Joining Mr. Pedroza is Tina Laviolette, who has 10 years of experience as a banker in Napa. 

[caption id="attachment_74930" align="alignright" width="400"] Mechanics Bank opened a new Napa branch in June. (photo courtesy Mechanics Bank)[/caption]

The physical expansion for Mechanics Bank comes at a time when many lenders are reconsidering the role of their brick-and-mortar branch networks. Some have scaled back those networks as consumers increasingly turn to the Web and ATMs, but Mr. Downer said that the physical branch still holds sway as a hub for discussing more complex issues with clients.

"As we view it -- consumer behavior is changing because of technology," he said. "The interactions we are having in our offices are becoming more sophisticated."

The 2,500-square-foot branch's layout is intended to address those changing habits, providing a comfortable space suitable for one-on-one interactions with bankers.

"It's really morphing into a more holistic experience," Mr. Pedroza said.***

Sterling Financial Corporation (NASDAQ: STSA), the Washington-based parent company of Sonoma Bank, has recast its management structure in Northern California with the promotion of long-time North Bay banker Jamie Williams to the role of Northern California market president, the company announced.

Mr. Williams was most recently the head of commercial lending for Sonoma Bank, a role he has held since joining the bank in 2010. Previously, Mr. Williams served as a market president for Tamalpais Bank, and was part of the team that founded Greater Bay Bank Marin. The commercial lending position will not be immediately filled, said Sterling spokeswoman Cara Coon.

Joining Mr. Williams in the newly created market president role is Gilbert Dalmau, who will oversee activities in Southern California. Mr. Dalmau was most recently the executive vice president and chief banking officer for First California Bank.

Together, Mr. Williams and Mr. Dalmau will focus on building the presence of Sterling's subsidiaries in California. Those operating companies now also include Borrego Springs Bank, a Southern California-based specialist in lending backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration....

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