Thomas Iino (right) and Frank Mercardante pose in front of Pacific Commerce Bank in Little Tokyo on Feb. 24. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)
Thomas Iino (right) and Frank Mercardante pose in front of Pacific Commerce Bank in Little Tokyo on Feb. 24. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor-in-Chief

A merger between Pacific Commerce Bank and the Chula Vista-based Vibra Bank was approved overwhelmingly by the banks’ shareholders last week. Pacific Commerce Bank shareholders approved the merger at a special shareholder meeting on Feb. 23 with 76 percent of all votes.

“I’m elated, this is why I got involved in Pacific Commerce Bank in the first place, which is to see the growth and provide value to our shareholders,” said Thomas Iiino, chairman of the board.

Vibra, which was founded in 2008 as a bank for the Mexican American community, has one branch and $140.4 million in total assets. The merger will be finalized on April 2 and Vibra will be folded into Pacific Commerce Bank, giving the community bank four branches, nearly $350 million in assets and over 50 employees.

Frank Mercardante, current Vibra president and CEO, will become CEO and a director of Pacific Commerce Bank. He has nearly 50 years of experience in the banking industry and was a founding director and CEO of Southwest Community Bank, which sold to Placer Sierra Bank in 2006, providing a 953 percent return to original shareholders. He went on to become chairman and CEO of Placer Sierra Bank, which later sold to Wells Fargo Bank at 3.9 times tangible book value.

“Everybody wins when you put the banks together,” Mercardante explained. “Putting these two banks together, granted there’s a lot of geography between us, but also a lot of opportunity for us to go in and fill in some of that geography in strategic markets to create greater opportunity for our clients.”

Pacific Commerce Bank on Jan. 29 announced results for 2014 that reflected annual net income after tax of $1.7 million and growth in total assets of $44.6 million, or 26 percent for the year.

For the full year ended Dec. 31, 2014, net income was $1,744,000 or $0.39 per share, which compares to net income of $4,925,000 or $1.10 per share in 2013.

Pacific Commerce Bank was founded in 2002 as a Japanese American community bank. It is the only bank, outside of Hawaii, with a substantial amount of shareholders and board members who are Nikkei.

The vote is a culmination of merger talks between the two banks which began last summer. Mercardante said that future mergers are a possibility as the bank seeks to expand and increase its value to shareholders.

“The goal is to make the bank more viable and be able to provide greater services,” he said.

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