Banking: Mechanics Bank expands in Napa

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.

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