Happy Thanksgiving

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It was 1621 when the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians shared a fall harvest meal, regarded by most as the first Thanksgiving. It wasn’t until 1863, however, that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day.

Those very early colonists were faced with a harsh New England winter in their first year, which brought malnutrition, illness and death. The kindness of an American Indian who spoke English, which he learned during his time as an English sea captain’s captive, went a long way toward preventing more colonist deaths.

That man, Squanto, taught the colonists how to cultivate and collect food in their new homeland. He also helped them forge an alliance with the local tribe, the Wampanoag; an alliance that endured for more than 50 years.

Historians speculate that the 1621 Thanksgiving menu, shared between the settlers and their new friends, probably included fowl of some sort as well as deer and corn. With no oven and a dwindling sugar supply, cakes and pies were almost certainly not on the menu.

Despite the fact that approximately 90 percent of Thanksgiving meals now feature turkey, the wildfowl served at the first Thanksgiving meal was probably goose or duck.

As traditions have evolved, one or two lucky turkeys get pardoned by the U.S President each year, which started in the mid 20th century. Some state governors do the same for turkeys in their respective states. Over time, parades and volunteering have also became part of the U.S. Thanksgiving tradition.

However you celebrate Thanksgiving, whatever you include in your feast and whomever you invite to your table, from all of us at Grandpoint Bank, we hope this Thanksgiving fills your heart, as well as your belly, and that we all reflect on the charity and friendship exemplified by that first Thanksgiving celebration.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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Veterans Day, 2016

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Our great nation was founded on the belief that everyone is created equal and that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are inalienable rights. At times in our history, as will surely be the case in our future, brave men and women have been called upon to defend those rights and ideals.

Today we celebrate those individuals who have given their time, their skills and even their lives, to protect our safety, freedom and way of life.

To all the members of the United States military, past, present and future, thank you for your service. No one better demonstrates than you the closing line of the Declaration of Independence: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Happy Veterans Day

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Grandpoint Bank Promotes Karen McGuire to Executive Vice President

karen-mcguireCongratulations to Karen McGuire, manager of Grandpoint’s Construction Lending Department, who just earned a well-deserved promotion to Executive Vice President.

Karen is responsible for helping Grandpoint Bank and our divisions, Bank of Tucson, Regents Bank and The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, expand our construction lending loan portfolio. She is based at Grandpoint’s Irvine office and oversees a seasoned and talented construction lending staff. Her duties include analyzing and underwriting all of the bank’s construction loan requests. This includes evaluating both standard and complex construction loan transactions, interfacing with clients, handling the construction loan disbursements once a loan is approved and visiting project sites.

According to Karen, currently, the demand for construction lending for multifamily properties is especially strong throughout the nation. In the markets that Grandpoint Bank and our divisions serve, Karen says the strongest demand is coming from Los Angeles and the Portland, Oregon/ Vancouver, Washington market. Karen’s team is also currently seeing a lot of lending activity and demand from the hospitality and single family real estate sectors in many of the bank’s existing markets.

Karen’s best advice for would-be loan applicants? If you’re looking for construction financing, start the loan application process sooner rather than later.  Assuming your loan application is complete, the approval process can be as short as 60 days, but compiling a complete loan application can take longer than many people anticipate due to the additional amounts of information and analysis required.

Your local relationship manager, along with Karen and her staff, will work with you to help you understand what is needed and what to include in your application. You’ll also benefit from the incredible depth of experience our loan underwriters have and can contribute to your construction project and process. You can depend on our team to bring a sophisticated understanding to your objectives and the business of construction.

“My team and I don’t consider our work done once a loan is approved,” says Karen. “Someone from our construction lending team will go to the building site once every two to three months so that we continue to understand not only the project but also our clients’ needs and achievements.”

Karen counts the AC Hotel Tucson by Marriott (currently under construction) as one of her most notable construction loans to date. Though it was a complex project, involving two different loans and some required environmental remediation, the loan was ultimately closed based in large part on the entire team’s “can-do” attitude. The 136-room hotel with 5,000-square-feet of ground floor retail will soon give new life to the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway in downtown Tucson.

“We are very fortunate to have Karen and her staff, all of whom have considerable previous experience in complex structured financing,” said Mark Phillips, Executive Vice President & Chief Credit Officer of Grandpoint Capital. “When Karen started with us, we had one construction loan on the books. Now we’re making construction loans in three states, with loans amounts up to $40 million and greater.”

For more information about construction loans, please contact your local banking office, your relationship manager or Karen McGuire at 949-483-8388.

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Aida Baboudjian Celebrates 30 Years with Grandpoint

baboudjian_aidaWe have quite a milestone to celebrate this month. Grandpoint Bank relationship manager and vice president Aida Baboudjian is celebrating her 30-year anniversary with us!

She is a motivated and dedicated professional who believes in pushing herself to be the best commercial lender and information source for her clients. She always demonstrates great respect for her clients and co-workers.

Her first interview, in 1986 with our predecessor bank, Gilmore Bank, lasted about 45 minutes, with 40 of those minutes spent discussing Armenian food. There was obviously an immediate connection, and she has proven to be part of our recipe for success over the span of three decades.

Interacting with a diverse array of clients and co-workers is something Aida cites as a driving factor for why she has remained with our bank for 30 years, since joining as a credit checker. Originally from Armenia, she has put her tri-lingual skills to work (she also speaks Russian), especially with the Russian business community near our office on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles’ Mid-Wilshire community, where Aida works.

With the iconic Farmers Market nearby, Aida also works with an array of shop and restaurant owners from the market. “I love the cultural diversity that surrounds me,” says Aida. “My clients and coworkers have come from so many different places.”

Aida originally came to the U.S. after meeting her husband while attending State Engineering University of Armenia, where she earned a master’s degree in Engineering.

She thought her first job state-side would be in computer programming, which she studied at the Computer Learning Center in Los Angeles. A friend turned her onto a job opening at a bank instead. The rest is history, and Aida says, “I never looked back.”

The secret to finding a place you are content to work for 30 years? Aida feels like she’s an important part of the Grandpoint organization and that has made a tremendous difference to her.

“My boss and the management team here really care about me and trust me,” she said. “I always feel comfortable approaching anyone at our bank with my questions and ideas.”

She also appreciates the challenges she’s able to tackle for her clients. “Sometimes the challenge helps you to focus and get things done,” she said.

Happy 30th anniversary, Aida!

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Introducing Our New Multifamily Lending Division

kim-karen-croppedWe’re happy to announce that we have expanded our service offerings once again.

Multifamily properties represent an important part of the housing market, especially as cities become denser and land constrained. Grandpoint Bank and its divisions, Bank of Tucson, Regents Bank and The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, now has a multifamily lending division, managed by Senior Vice President Karen Kim.

According to Karen, 2016 is expected to be another good year for the multifamily sector due to favorable demographic trends and economic growth, based on the Multifamily Outlook study completed by Freddie Mac.

“Demographically, the strong multifamily market is further bolstered by Millennials and empty nesters, who are increasingly choosing multifamily over single-family residences in many cities,” Karen says.

Karen’s multifamily lending team is comprised of experts in multifamily lending who have previously worked at institutions that have produced a large volume of multifamily portfolios for the past two decades or more.

Multifamily property owners and investors can access three-, five- and on a very limited basis, seven-year hybrid loans from our bank, as well as a six-month ARM loans. Qualifying properties include five or more units in Class A or B buildings, with Class C-type properties considered on a deal-by-deal basis. As portfolio lenders — meaning most of these loans remain with our bank — we have more control over our products and pricing, which is a huge advantage.

We’re working with a network of seasoned mortgage brokers throughout the markets we serve to educate them about how Grandpoint Bank and its divisions can help their clients finance or refinance properties up to approximately $15 million in loan value. Karen and her team are currently cultivating additional mortgage broker relationships in Greater Los Angeles area, San Diego County, Ventura County, Orange County, Portland, Vancouver, WA, Greater Phoenix area and Tucson.

Please contact Karen to inquire about becoming an approved broker with Grandpoint Bank.  You can also ask her to connect you to an approved broker already working with Grandpoint Bank.

Karen H. Kim, SVP, Multi-Family Lending Manager kkim@grandpointbank.com or (213) 542-2727.

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Our Senior Vice President Jan Marantz Celebrates 23 Years!

marantz_janWe are very excited to share that our Corporate Secretary Jan Marantz has just earned a promotion to senior vice president and is celebrating her 23rd anniversary with our bank. While Grandpoint was built from a number of predecessor banks, we have a remarkable number of people who have been part of our team throughout our evolution … for 20 years or more!

This kind of dedication and longevity deserves some attention. We’d like to let you know a bit about why we think Jan is such a valuable asset to Grandpoint Bank and its customers.

When Jan first came on board in 1993, it was as the administrative assistant to the president of First Commerce Bank (then Brentwood Bank of California).  She was referred by Debbie Marsten, with whom she had worked at a different bank in the 1980s.

In the beginning, it was challenging for Jan. She worked for two different presidents in short order before Jack Feldman, now a Grandpoint Bank director, joined as president and eventually brought in an experienced team that turned things around for the better.

“It was then that I knew I was here to stay,” Jan said. “I was motivated to learn as much as I could from this seasoned team of bankers.  From that point on, I’ve enjoyed coming to work every day.”

After Grandpoint acquired First Commerce Bank, Debbie, who co-founded Grandpoint and is COO, quickly recruited Jan for the position of Corporate Secretary of the Bank and the holding company, Grandpoint Capital, Inc.

“Debbie was just as I remembered her: authentic, intelligent and a great manager with the utmost integrity,” Jan said.

While she appreciates the opportunities to constantly expand her knowledge base, it’s interacting with her Grandpoint colleagues that Jan looks forward to the most each day.

“Our personalities are so diverse, but somehow it feels right,” she said. “We all work well together, respect each other and share a sense of humor.”

Jan’s job, in a nutshell, is to make sure our board of directors runs like clockwork. She manages the flow of corporate information between the board, shareholders and senior managers, advises on the board’s fiduciary duties and the mandatory procedures that ensure their regulatory compliance, and she is  responsible for managing the board’s timely review of all bank policies. She also participates in our strategic planning process, along with a host of other critical duties.

Over her long career in banking, she’s had the chance to advise and mentor others and was quick to sum up what’s worked for her in her journey up the ranks at Grandpoint Bank in hopes that it may help others.

  • Leave your ego at home. Do whatever assignment is asked of you — no job is too small.
  • Always do your best work.
  • Volunteer for special projects and offer to represent the bank outside of work.
  • Always find the time to help your colleagues.
  • Keep learning. Take work-related seminars and courses whenever you have the chance.

Jan really lives this advice and her work ethic has positioned her as an invaluable member of our team. We would say that we wish we could clone Jan, but someone already did. Fun fact about Jan: she has an identical twin sister.

While we’re glad we’ve been able to provide the kind of team and culture that earns the loyalty of super stars like Jan, her Grandpoint Bank career provided an extra perk you won’t find in our employee manual. Another fun fact: she met her husband while working at our Encino office. He had an office in the same building. We’re happy to report that they’re still going strong 14 years later.

Thank you for your dedication and incredible work, Jan. We’re fortunate to have you on the team.

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Thirteenth Consecutive 5-Star “Superior” Rating From BauerFinancial for Grandpoint Bank and its Divisions

5starsep16We’re honored to share that Grandpoint Bank and its divisions, Bank of Tucson, Regents Bank and The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, received a thirteenth consecutive quarterly 5-Star “superior” rating from independent rating and research firm BauerFinancial,screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am based on June 30, 2016 financial data filed with the government.

BauerFinancial, regarded as “the nation’s bank rating service,” gives the 5-Star rating only to banks that are considered the strongest in the nation, as assessed for strength, stability and soundness.

One of our core operating principles has always been to build long-term partnerships with our clients, so that our seasoned bankers can develop an in-depth understanding of their businesses and anticipate their needs. To our clients: Thank you for your trust, your support and your business.

According to BauerFinancial, to earn this highest rating level, institutions are required to maintain a tangible capital ratio of at least four percent, a tier 1 risk-based capital ratio of at least four percent and a total risk-based capital ratio of at least eight percent. Other criteria evaluated include: profitability/loss trend, evaluating the level of delinquent loans and repossessed assets, the market versus book value of the investment portfolio, regulatory supervisory agreements, the community reinvestment rating (CRA) and liquidity.

Banks cannot pay to be rated nor opt out of being rated by BauerFinancial. Four- and five-star banks appear on BauerFinancial’s Recommended Report.

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screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-amLinking to Non-Grandpoint Bank Websites
This icon appears next to every link that directs to a third party website not affiliated with Grandpoint Bank. Please be advised that if you click this link you will be taken to a website hosted by another party, where you will no longer be subject to, or under the protection of, the privacy and security policies of Grandpoint Bank. We recommend that you review and evaluate the privacy and security policies of the site that you are entering. Grandpoint Bank assumes no liability for the content, information, security, policies or transactions provided by these other sites.

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FBI Article: Ransomware

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We receive a lot of positive feedback when we run articles from the FBI’s cyber crime division. We’re pleased the Bureau has encouraged us to share their articles on this topic, so we want to share a recent post from their website about ransomware. Ransomware refers to a malware that restricts access to the infected computer/network and demands that the operators pay some sort of ransom to regain control of their network. We hope this article is helpful to you. Please let us know if you have information or ideas on this topic that our readers may want to hear.

You can find this article, as well as many other articles you may find valuable to keep your business and staff secure against cybercrime, at this web address: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/cyberscreen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am

For more information about fraud protection tools and product features provided by Grandpoint Bank, please visit our website.

Ransomware 

Hospitals, school districts, state and local governments, law enforcement agencies, small businesses, large businesses—these are just some of the entities impacted by ransomware, an insidious type of malware that encrypts, or locks, valuable digital files and demands a ransom to release them.

The inability to access the important data these kinds of organizations keep can be catastrophic in terms of the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, the disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and the potential harm to an organization’s reputation. Home computers are just as susceptible to ransomware and the loss of access to personal and often irreplaceable items— including family photos, videos, and other data—can be devastating for individuals as well.

In a ransomware attack, victims—upon seeing an e-mail addressed to them—will open it and may click on an attachment that appears legitimate, like an invoice or an electronic fax, but which actually contains the malicious ransomware code. Or the e-mail might contain a legitimate-looking URL, but when a victim clicks on it, they are directed to a website that infects their computer with malicious software.

One the infection is present, the malware begins encrypting files and folders on local drives, any attached drives, backup drives, and potentially other computers on the same network that the victim computer is attached to. Users and organizations are generally not aware they have been infected until they can no longer access their data or until they begin to see computer messages advising them of the attack and demands for a ransom payment in exchange for a decryption key. These messages include instructions on how to pay the ransom, usually with bitcoins because of the anonymity this virtual currency provides.

Ransomware attacks are not only proliferating, they’re becoming more sophisticated. Several years ago, ransomware was normally delivered through spam e-mails, but because e-mail systems got better at filtering out spam, cyber criminals turned to spear phishing e-mails targeting specific individuals. And in newer instances of ransomware, some cyber criminals aren’t using e-mails at all—they can bypass the need for an individual to click on a link by seeding legitimate websites with malicious code, taking advantage of unpatched software on end-user computers.

The FBI doesn’t support paying a ransom in response to a ransomware attack. Paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee an organization that it will get its data back—there have been cases where organizations never got a decryption key after having paid the ransom. Paying a ransom not only emboldens current cyber criminals to target more organizations, it also offers an incentive for other criminals to get involved in this type of illegal activity. And by paying a ransom, an organization might inadvertently be funding other illicit activity associated with criminals.

So what does the FBI recommend? As ransomware techniques and malware continue to evolve—and because it’s difficult to detect a ransomware compromise before it’s too late—organizations in particular should focus on two main areas:

  • Prevention efforts—both in both in terms of awareness training for employees and robust technical prevention controls; and
  • The creation of a solid business continuity plan in the event of a ransomware attack.

Tips for Dealing with Ransomware. While the below tips are primarily aimed at organizations and their employees, some are also applicable to individual users.

  • Make sure employees are aware of ransomware and of their critical roles in protecting the organization’s data.
  • Patch operating system, software, and firmware on digital devices (which may be made easier through a centralized patch management system).
  • Ensure antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans.
  • Manage the use of privileged accounts—no users should be assigned administrative access unless absolutely needed, and only use administrator accounts when necessary.
  • Configure access controls, including file, directory, and network share permissions appropriately. If users only need read specific information, they don’t need write-access to those files or directories.
  • Disable macro scripts from office files transmitted over e-mail.
  • Implement software restriction policies or other controls to prevent programs from executing from common ransomware locations (e.g., temporary folders supporting popular Internet browsers, compression/decompression programs).
  • Back up data regularly and verify the integrity of those backups regularly.
  • Secure your backups. Make sure they aren’t connected to the computers and networks they are backing up.

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screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-11-07-51-am Linking to Non-Grandpoint Bank Websites
This icon appears next to every link that directs to a third party website not affiliated with Grandpoint Bank. Please be advised that if you click this link you will be taken to a website hosted by another party, where you will no longer be subject to, or under the protection of, the privacy and security policies of Grandpoint Bank. We recommend that you review and evaluate the privacy and security policies of the site that you are entering. Grandpoint Bank assumes no liability for the content, information, security, policies or transactions provided by these other sites.

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We’re Working with You to Battle Cyber Crime

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Since 2013, cyber criminals have attacked over 22,000 businesses via business email scams with losses totaling over $3.1 billion. Businesses of any size are vulnerable. In the L.A. area, losses due to business email compromise alone total $14.6 million per month. Experts estimate that 80% of cyber attacks are avoidable through basic cyber hygiene.  By implementing a variety of safety and prevention measures, you can significantly reduce the chances of your business suffering losses due to cyber crime.

To help businesses understand the risks and the ways they can help protect themselves from this growing threat, we recently hosted a series of cyber security seminars in Los Angeles and Orange County. We want to share a few of the key takeaways from our panel of experts in law enforcement, information security and insurance. Here’s what we learned from Howard Miller, CRM, CIC, of L/B/W Insurance and Financial Services, Kimberly Pease, CISSP, of Citadel Information Group, Michael Sohn of the FBI’s Los Angeles Cyber Crime Outreach and Stan Stahl of Secure The Village.

  • Employee training throughout your organization is critical. Make sure you have clear policies about cyber security and that they are clearly communicated to your staff, contractors and anyone else who has the ability to expose your company to risk. Educate all of your employees about the risks of clicking on links in emails and sharing business information via phone or email with people they don’t know or trust.
  • Limit access to software to employees who really need it and make sure that each employee has their own log-in (don’t have employees share log-ins) so you can track activity back to a specific person.
  • Keep software updated regularly. Cyber thieves exploit vulnerabilities in older versions of software.
  • Use two-factor authentication to access your internet email and other sensitive applications such as online banking. Two-factor authentication requires you to use a one-time password in addition to your regular password, making it more difficult for hackers to hack.
  • Make sure your back-up files are capturing all of your critical data and that your employees are following your prescribed protocol for backing up their files. Also make sure you are backing up your files in a different physical location so you can use them in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Look at your third party vendor contracts to understand what cyber risk you might assume through your relationship with that vendor, particularly with cloud providers who typically accept little, if any, liability associated with cyber crime.
  • Take information security as seriously as operations and finance.
  • Create a VPN (virtual private network) to secure communications to your business network that are initiated by authorized employees using devices outside of your network.
  • Secure your wi-fi with a password and encryption.
  • Use different passwords for different sites and make them long and complex.
  • Check any existing cyber security insurance you may have to look for gaps or exclusions in the coverage. Business interruption is typically limited to physical causes so most insurance won’t cover business interruption due to a cyber attack.
  • Before your business is targeted by cyber criminals, establish a relationship with your local FBI office. They’re the lead federal agency for investigating these kinds of attacks.

For banking (online as well as offline), the following recommendations were made:

  • Use dual control for all ACH and wire transfers. Dual control means that another person or account has to authorize a transfer in addition to the person who initiates it.
  • Never trust wire instructions or other funds transfer instructions sent via email. Always call the person or company to verify the instructions.
  • Set up alerts that automatically notify you about log-ins, password changes, transfers, etc. This way if an unauthorized change is made, you know and can respond quickly.
  • Use Trusteer Rapport software (available free) to provide a secure web channel between your computer and the bank’s online banking site.
  • Use our ACH Fraud Protection Service, which enables business clients to review ACH transactions before they are complete and to choose to pay or return each item.
  • Use ACH blocks or restrictions, if you know you won’t be using these electronic payments, or if you want to limit ACH withdrawals to only specific vendors.

To address the risks of funds transfer fraud and cyber deception, our bank has also introduced a new way for our business banking clients to protect themselves through a first-of-its-kind cyber insurance group policy. The policy provides gap insurance, since most cyber crime insurance policies don’t cover losses for money sent out of a business banking account “voluntarily;” that is, when someone in your firm is tricked into sending funds to a cyber criminal posing as a trusted colleague or vendor. For more information on this policy, please visit grandpointinsurance.com.

Insurance Products are:
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Insurance Products are offered through Grandpoint Insurance Services, Inc., a non-bank insurance agency affiliate of Grandpoint Bank, and facilitated through LBW Insurance & Financial Services, Inc., an unaffiliated insurance agency.

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