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Still open: The First Bank of Beverly Hills in Beverly Hills

April 27, 2009 |  5:14 pm

In a simple and rational world, a financial firm called First Bank of Beverly Hills would be located in Beverly Hills. But then, nothing in banking is simple or rational these days.

So when the Times reported on Friday that the First Bank of Beverly Hills had been seized by regulators, the blog item noted that the one-branch commercial lender, with $1.5 billion in assets, was actually in Calabasas.

Unfortunately, that point didn’t register with every customer of First Banks Inc., a privately held St. Louis company with $10.7 billion in assets, which operates 214 First Bank offices in five states. The branches include 61 in California -- two of which are in, you guessed it, Beverly Hills.

And so dozens of depositors at the healthy institution started lighting up the phones after seeing the Times headline that said First Bank of Beverly Hills had been shut down.

"We have a lot of confused customers," said Joel Schwartz, a senior vice president and Southern California regional manager for the St. Louis banking firm. "And some of the confused customers have become worried and even panicked."

The failed First Bank had moved its headquarters to Calabasas from Beverly Hills in 2000.

The larger St. Louis bank, as part of its expansion in California, purchased the Beverly Hills branch of Calabasas-based First Bank of Beverly Hills in 2006.

That’s why the now-defunct First Bank of Beverly Hills has "no location in Beverly Hills," explained Schwartz. "They had one, but we bought it."

All clear, everyone?

-- E. Scott Reckard

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