Banking On The Future Of Business

George Guarini’s story is one of resilience and innovation in the banking industry.

After graduating from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, Guarini moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, seeking employment in both banking and retail. Opting for the former due to its better working hours, he embarked on a journey that would ultimately lead to the founding of United Business Bank.

After transferring to Newport Beach, California in the late in the late 80s, Guarini began working in lower-level positions in the banking sector and observing the intricacies involved in bank operations. His curiosity led him to contact a firm specializing in assisting banks in obtaining FDIC Regulatory approval, setting the stage for the birth of his financial institution.

The process of starting a bank, as Guarini learned, was broken down into 3 steps. #1 Securing State and Federal Regulatory approval #2 establishing a Board of Directors and #3 raising capital.

After meeting with twenty-five individuals in the San Francisco Bay Area, he discovered a shared interest in his venture to establish a community bank.

“I was able to convince twenty-four out of twenty-five of those individuals to join me in my new endeavor,” Guarini recalls. “The next step was to establish a board of directors.”

Of the twenty-four, Guarini asked ten individuals to join the board of directors. Fortunately, nine out of ten said “yes”.

Then came the tricky part: raising $15.5 million in eight weeks.

Shortly after the first organizer meeting, while riding the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) train from San Francisco to Walnut Creek, Guarini was on the phone with one of the founding officers who told him that they had secured their first committed investor, a plastic surgeon who had committed an investment of three hundred thousand dollars. After a few stops and some persuasive pleading, he’d acquired his first investor, but his luck on that fateful day had yet to run out. An elderly gentleman sitting in the handicapped chair in front of which Guarini was standing, overheard his conversation and asked if he was starting a business.

“I told him I was starting a bank,” says Guarini. “He said he was heading to Yellowstone National Park, but if I had an offering circular, I should send it to his home address.”

Guarini learned that this older gentleman was also a successful doctor and knew the plastic surgeon who had made the $300,000 Commitment. In the span of a single train ride, he had secured $600,000 of Committed investment. More smooth solicitation and friendly favors would follow, and Guarini would ultimately raise $8.6 million of the $15.5 million on his own and the remaining capital was raised by the 24 organizers from friends and family in approximately 6 weeks.  

United Business Bank officially opened on July 20th, 2004. In only a few years Guarini and his team raised a substantial amount of capital via another capital raise in 2010. In 2010 United Business Bank, having weathered the 2008 Great Financial Crisis, searched for its first M&A opportunity. 

“When 2008 hit there were banks failing every Friday,” he remembers. “We didn’t have credit problems, so we sought to buy banks that did.” 

In 2011 United Business Bank made its first acquisition.  In 2018, the bank IPO’d, raising another $65 million and solidifying its status as a public company with a significant capital base. Despite more challenges, including the impact of the 2020 pandemic, United Business Bank navigated the financial landscape adeptly, issuing subordinated debt early that year to mitigate potential damage. 

Currently boasting assets of $2.6 billion and 35 offices across multiple states including Colorado, New Mexico, Washington, California, and Nevada. Guarini’s goal is to continue to grow into a mid-sized Western Regional Bank.

United Business Bank is committed to practicing personalized, relationship-oriented banking. Guarini and his team emphasize the use of a new system called “LIVE Banking” (Live, Interactive, Virtual, Experience) which allows them to open accounts for prospective and existing clients “any time” from “anywhere” on a personal level through face-to-face interactions, challenging the impersonal norms of the banking industry.

“Most people, especially younger folks, don’t go to the bank much anymore,” says Guarini. “That’s why we’ve created LIVE Banking. Users can go to our website, click on a link or QR code, and hop into a face-to-face meeting with one of our employees, using their phone, IPAD, Laptop or personal computer.  It establishes a physical connection without all the organizing and transporting of personal documents to the bank.”

Guarini treats the United Business Bank team like family. Unlike larger banks that work in a classist system, Guarini is happy to be the one grabbing coffee for his entry-level employees. 

“I’m just “George”, not the Founder/CEO,” he says. “When we started there were over 9,000 banks in the country, now there are 4,600. We’re still going strong because we’re a family.”

With a commitment to shareholders, a strong capital base, and a unique approach to client interactions, United Business Bank stands out as a beacon of success in an ever-evolving financial landscape.

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