Growing into Growth

By Debra Cope 

As banks grow more complex, their boards change too, and Endeavor Bank in San Diego is a case in point. The $464 million-asset de novo bank recently added a ninth director to help oversee its expanding business and may add one or two more board members, according to Steve Sefton, co-founder and president. 

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of ABA Banking Journal Directors Briefing. Subscribe now.
“There’s a lot of heavy lifting on the board,” says Sefton, who is one of the bank’s two inside directors along with CEO Dan Yates. “Our directors work hard. Every member is on committees, and our loan committee meets at least weekly.” 

Established in 2018, Endeavor Bank has a board that consists of business leaders. “Our board members know what it’s like to start a business from scratch and make payroll. That’s really important to us.”  

Endeavor Bank serves the San Diego business community and was created to fill a niche as locally owned banks vanished from view. The number of banks headquartered in San Diego shrank from more than 50 in the 1980s to fewer than 30 in the 2000s, Sefton noted. “Now there are only seven or eight, depending how you count, not including credit unions. We are the only bank to start here since before the Great Recession” of 2008-10, he added. 

Endeavor Bank has seven outside directors, the newest of whom was elected at the June 2021 annual meeting. She is Vickie E. Turner, a lawyer who co-founded the firm of Wilson Turner Kosmo, which specializes in complex litigation. 

Sefton says the bank was formed from a coalition of two different organizing groups that were simultaneously working to create a business-focused bank for San Diego. “Like a lot of good ideas, the bank was formed out of frustration,” Sefton says. Chairman Matt Rattner was a newly minted Stanford University MBA when he and a partner created the first craft brewery in San Diego. In operation since 1989, the Karl Strauss Brewing Company owns nine brewpubs and tasting rooms in Southern California and has its own distribution arm. 

“Matt found it difficult to find a local bank that understood owners,” and that eventually sparked his interest in starting a bank, Sefton explained. At the same time, Sefton and his business partner, Yates, were bankers who were dissatisfied to see consolidation in the industry pushing decision-making out of San Diego. Sefton says the bank has a “Stakeholder Club” at its heart consisting of about 1,000 locally based business owners who own Endeavor stock. Endeavor intentionally spread ownership broadly across its market; most stockholders own less than a $100,000 investment. 

One challenge for the board is that “for most of us, this is our first time on a bank board. Other than the two inside board members, only one outside board member has prior bank board experience.”  

One goal for 2022 is to step up training, Sefton explains. “We want opportunities to be around other board members and find out from peers what’s important to them.  We want to learn from them how they fulfill their roles of governance and retaining management.” 

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Debra Cope

Debra Cope is editor-in-chief of ABA Banking Journal Directors Briefing.