New banks look to commercial niches

Two new names are about to make themselves more prominent in the Northern Colorado banking market, using a business-focused approach to carve out a niche for themselves.

One of these actually is a combination of two banks, one of which, Colorado Community Bank, has had a presence in the region for years. But in May 2012, Colorado Community Bank was purchased by Carlile Bancshares, a Texas-based company that specializes in purchasing regional community banks.

Prior to its acquisition, Colorado Community Bank was headquartered in Yuma and had 17 branches in Colorado, including several in Northern Colorado. In August, Colorado Community Bank was merged with another Carlile-owned bank, Colorado Springs-based Bank at Broadmoor, and the new entity was named Northstar Bank.

While Northstar’s presence reaches from Colorado Springs to Fort Collins, the Northern Colorado market will remain an important one for the bank, according to Stuart Pattison, chief executive of Northstar.

The company’s chief operating officer is based in Greeley, and about half of the bank’s 200 statewide employees are located in branches in Greeley, Loveland, Milliken, Johnstown, Longmont, Evans and Firestone, Pattison said.

Northstar also will look to Fort Collins for expansion potential, Pattison said. The newly merged bank holds $750 million in assets and keeps its focus on business banking, which Pattison says helps it separate itself from the plethora of consumer banks in Northern Colorado.

The bank does mortgages, handles personal checking accounts and other consumer-focused services, but the ratio is about 60 percent business to 40 percent consumer, Pattison said.

Data for Northstar is not yet available from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., since the bank was formed so recently, but numbers for the two banks that merged to create Northstar show that real estate loans made up the majority of assets at both institutions.

As of June 30, real estate loans made up more than $284 million in assets at both banks combined, with agricultural loans making up the second-largest share of loans with $36 million, according to financial data submitted to the FDIC.

Northstar intends to continue lending with a business focus, Pattison said, and will consider speculative projects, something about which many banks are still gun-shy in the recession’s wake. The bank’s large presence in Weld County makes it a candidate for oil and gas lending as well.

Another bank with business in its name also is making its way into the Northern Colorado market. Colorado Business Bank, which announced its physical expansion into the area this summer, is hoping to get regulatory approval for a Fort Collins branch in October or November, said Doug Woods, Fort Collins market president for the bank.

An exact location for the branch is not yet known, Woods said, but it will be downtown and will be staffed with five or six people. Colorado Business Bank already has received regulatory approval for a loan production office and already is making loans out of temporary offices in the Opera Galleria in downtown Fort Collins.

In addition to business lending, Colorado Business Bank includes business-friendly services such as a treasury group, investment banking and foreign exchange, Woods said. These services were used by customers in the Northern Colorado market before the bank decided to make a physical move to the area, Woods said, but opening the branch will mean a much larger presence for basic banking services, including lending.

Colorado Business Bank’s parent company, CoBiz Financial (Nasdaq: COBZ), is headquartered in Denver and is a $2.6 billion holding company. The bank’s loans are mostly in the real estate and commercial sectors, with more than $1.1 billion and $701 million in loans in these categories, respectively, as of June 30.

But Woods, who came from Capital West Bank in Fort Collins, says the bank will have plenty of competition in spite of its focused approach.

“Competition is the biggest challenge, but we can do basic business and also provide service through our different groups,” Woods said.

Northern Colorado often is thought of as bank-heavy or even “over-banked,” with banks of all kinds and sizes, many of which are growing steadily again after the recession.

According to the FDIC’s most recent deposit market share report, published in June 2012, there are 184 bank branches operating in Larimer and Weld counties combined, serving a combined population of more than 560,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That works out to about one bank branch for every 3,000 people, which is on par with the number of bank branches per capita for Colorado and the United States, according to data from the FDIC and the Colorado Bankers Association.

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Molly Armbrister covers real estate, banking and health care for the Northern Colorado Business Report. She can be reached at 970-232-3139, or

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