Silicon Valley Bank Returning to High-Tech Finance

By Dietrich, R. Kevin | American Banker, January 12, 1996 | Go to article overview

Silicon Valley Bank Returning to High-Tech Finance


Dietrich, R. Kevin, American Banker


Silicon Valley Bank lived by the high-tech industry, but it nearly died by the real estate industry.

Three years after being reprimanded by regulators for its reckless growth and losing millions in botched commercial real estate, Silicon Valley is back where it belongs: entrenched firmly in the venture capital, high-technology world in which it was founded in 1983.

"Part of the secret is, we're executing well and we're back in our niche, which is lending to high-tech companies," said John C. Dean, chief executive. "We've redirected the bank back to where it was before." The bank has fashioned a remarkable recovery less than three years after being placed under a consent order. The 1995 profits of its holding company, Silicon Valley Bancshares, have been projected at more than $15 million

"We've done very well this past year, as have banks in general. But that doesn't mean we can't continue to outperform this market," Mr. Dean said. "I think we've got an opportunity to show continued improvement in 1996, '97, and '98."

Analysts chalk up the recovery to the bank's core customer strategy and the ability of Mr. Dean's team to focus on it while working its way through asset quality problems.

"They really know their business, that's their key," said Joseph K. Morford, an analyst with Alex. Brown & Sons in San Francisco. "They represent niche banking at its best."

In the third quarter of 1995 Silicon Valley Bancshares had a return on assets of 1.8% and a return on equity of 22.4%. Both measures had just about doubled from the year-earlier period.

Just three years ago, things weren't nearly so rosy. Silicon Valley Bank was placed under consent agreements with both the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the California State Banking Department because of heavy real estate loan losses. The company lost more than $2.2 million in 1992 and had veered considerably off its original course.

Silicon Valley Bank's mission from the outset was to provide deposit and lending services to emerging growth and middle-market technological companies that had been underserved by larger banks, largely because of the risk involved. Indeed, that part of its business was always successful: Today, the bank estimates it does business with two-thirds of the start-up companies in the San Francisco Bay area that use venture capital. …

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