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Weighing In On What Circle Bank's Move Means

Marin Economic Forum CEO says the biggest factor is profits going to Oregon rather than staying here.

People who keep a close eye on Novato's economy and business community are starting to weigh in on the sale of  to Oregon-based Umpqua,  by the two banks.

Robert Eyler, a Sonoma State economics professor and interim CEO of theMarin Economic Forum, said having profits go to Portland rather than staying in Novato is the key point.

"Wells and BofA have large footprints here. However, it is really about community involvement and knowledge that separates financial institutions that are local from outside the area," Eyler said. ",and Exchange Bank have long-standing and deep roots in many parts of our local community, and Kim (Kaselionis) had done a lot of that for Circle in Marin and Sonoma. Big thing will be to see how Umpqua continues that or increases/decreases it."

Eyler said it will be interesting to see how many Circle Bank employees will be retained by Umpqua, which has been looking to expand to the Bay Area. Customers are usually affected in the short-term by changes in service and people they deal with, which can lead to some issues on transaction speed and market confusion, he said.

"However, in the long-term, it will boil down to how Umpqua services the customers, and they have a good rep on that," he said.

Eyler said this should not be seen as blind-siding news. "Banks have sale or merger as their major exit strategies, so this is not a shocker," he said.

Novato Mayor Denise Athas credited Circle Bank with being a great partner, creating a strong presence in the town and setting a national reputation for community banks.

"It is no wonder that they were courted," she said.

That said, she said it's all on Umpqua to carry the goodwill baton that's been carried with trust. Athas said she hopes Umpqua engages with the public the same way and turns out to be "the community partner that we have been blessed to have with Circle Bank. I also hope they become involved in helping revive our Novato theater and carry on with what Circle Bank started. I wish Kim Kaselionis, her employees a hearty congratulations."

Marin County Supervisor Judy Arnold said Umpqua's reception in Novato is all based on how it serves the community.

"Kim Kaselionis created a community-based bank through Circle that has provided the kind of customer-based knowledge that community banks like Bank of Marin and others have," Arnold said. "Clearly Umpqua is not that familiar with Marin, but if they keep a number of Circle Bank employees, that will be good. ... Knowing Kim to be the smart businesswoman she is, she must be satisfied with this outcome."

Marty Rubino, principal of  in Novato, has been the media adviser to Circle Bank for several years. A former ad executive and publisher at the , Rubino said the deal made "tremendous sense" for Umpqua.

"Promoting the combined Bay Area branch network with local media becomes much more cost-effective than either bank singularly," he said. "Factoring in Umpqua's stellar reputation for local focus and customer service tells me that this will be a very attractive banking solution to businesses and consumers around the bay."

Keeping all the former Circle Bank branches open as Umpqua branches will be good for customers as they travel through Marin and Sonoma counties, said chief Coy Smith.

"It seems like there should be little if any impact on customers," he said. "Since the acquiring bank is larger with very significant assets and resources, it could possibly mean additional resources come into Novato and transfer to the local business community in the form of increased lending to small business."

The future of  at one of Novato's major intersections was the main concern of Darren Pomponio, president of the Downtown Novato Business Association. He said he was relieved to hear that Umpqua plans on fulfilling the plans for the 999 Grant Ave. complex, which will have a mix of banking, retail and a restaurant.

"I hate to see Circle Bank go, though," he said. "I think Kim has done a great job there. But it's the nature of the banking business."

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Mark Burnham August 31, 2012 at 01:48 PM
thank you brent! good informative piece here.
Novatan August 31, 2012 at 01:57 PM
Three words: REDWOOD CREDIT UNION
Jay Strauss August 31, 2012 at 03:22 PM
Kim's involvement in the community will be sorely missed. The key issue for me is how Umpqua deals with 999 Grant. Its a critical location and downtown rejuvenation depends a great deal on what goes in there. Best would be a destination restaurant that will generate activity after 5. I thought we could count on Kim to do something first class, but don't have the same level of confidence in Umpqua, who are strangers. I hope they get it right.
Kevin August 31, 2012 at 03:38 PM
I hope Novato doesn't end up with an empty building like San Rafael did when Fair Isaac was bought out years ago.
Jerry August 31, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Circle Bank should still do well in Novato and surrounds, but do we get to keep Kim Kaselionis and her family? She is a savvy financial manager, with great leadership skills that every community needs. Not to forget her hubby either, who serves on the Fire Board.
Bobbie Henry August 31, 2012 at 03:58 PM
Having long time ties with the Rogue Valley area, I know that Umpqua has served my family there well. I've had the opportunity to do business there, though on a limited basis and customer service was fantastic. I feel very very optimistic that they will carry that same service into our community.
Bob Ratto August 31, 2012 at 07:02 PM
I know them well, they will get it right. They are getting the building (according to well informed people that I know)-I do think a restaurant would be very nice there as well.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) September 01, 2012 at 12:53 AM
That's comforting to many, I'm sure.

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