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Founded in 1905, Mechanics Bank provides personal banking, business banking, trust and estate services, brokerage and wealth management services throughout California. As a community bank, we invest in the same communities in which we live and work.
near the corner of 3rd and Macdonald Avenue, a small bank opened its doors in 1905. Soon after, that bank would take on a name based on its association with the workers of Richmond’s two largest employers at the time, Standard Oil and the Santa Fe Railroad. Under the leadership of local businessman and banker E.M. Downer, it would not only survive the Great Depression and two world wars, but it would also grow and prosper in step with the Bay Area, serving the needs of local businesses and families. Now, more than a century later, that bank – Mechanics Bank – continues the legacy of commitment based on one man’s principles of building lasting relationships, enriching local lives and local communities, driving local economic growth and exceeding client’s expectations every day.
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Our commitment began in the early 20th century, a time when banks were few and far between and served only the privileged class. Railroad workers in Northern California's Contra Costa County had no place to cash their paychecks until E.M. Downer changed all that.
As the railroad station agent in Pinole, E.M. Downer had a safe at the station. The railroad workers trusted Mr. Downer with their paychecks. As a service, he would make the dangerous daylong trek to Martinez to cash their checks and return with gold they could spend. Through this service, Mr. Downer became a trusted financial partner to many. In 1905, he built upon that trust and opened the Bank of Pinole, and so began a tradition of serving local communities that has lasted more than 110 years, and continues to thrive today. In 1915, E.M. Downer took a controlling interest in The Mechanics Bank of Richmond, where under his leadership and care, Mechanics Bank would grow and expand throughout the East Bay, forever changing an ever greater number of local lives, local businesses and local communities.
Taking care of clients means staying right in step with their needs. That’s why, in the 1920s under Mr. Downer’s leadership, Mechanics Bank pioneered personal loans. It’s also the reason why throughout the Great Depression, when some 9,000 U.S. banks failed, Mr. Downer was able to keep Mechanics Bank solvent, and worked to assist the people of the community who had fallen on difficult times.
The 1940s were a remarkable time of growth in our history, as Henry Kaiser brought his shipbuilding company to Richmond. In five short years, more than 700 Liberty Ships were built. As a service to the shipbuilders, bankers from Mechanics Bank would go down to the shipyards on Saturday mornings to cash workers’ paychecks as they came off their shifts.
In 1945, the shipyards shut down as fast as they had started up, leaving tens of thousands of shipyard workers without jobs. Following in his father’s footsteps, E.M. Downer, Jr., who now led the bank, promised to work with many of the shipyard’s employees, helping them to avoid foreclosure on their homes as the local economy transitioned.
Putting the client’s needs first led to many innovations during the following decades. As the popularity of automobiles increased in the late 1940s, we introduced drive-through banking, a first for Northern California. In the 1960s, we expanded our capabilities and were ahead of the curve by converting our bookkeeping system to electronic data processing. This technological leap forward paved the way for faster, more accurate financial records.
During the 1960s, we also established a full-service Trust Department, adding the ability to manage clients’ investments and assets. We even introduced around-the-clock banking in 1978 by installing some of the area’s first Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). In 1987, we consolidated all operations into a new, larger, central facility in Hercules, signaling a major commitment to the application of the latest technology. The 1990s launched a series of technological advancements for customer convenience through phone banking, supermarket branch locations, cash management services and, of course, online banking.
Geographic expansion took us beyond West Contra Costa County for the first time in the 1990's, with the opening of retail, commercial and trust offices in Walnut Creek, Oakland, Marin, the Napa Valley, San Francisco and the Sacramento region. All of this contributed to our reaching $1 billion in assets in 1996 and then $2 billion in assets just six short years later, in 2002.
In late 2005, our Downtown Berkeley Office became the first bank in Alameda County to be Green Business Certified by meeting stringent guidelines in pollution prevention, solid waste reduction, energy conservation and water conservation. That practice was soon carried out as we updated all of our retail branches.
In 2008, the financial crisis and start of the Great Recession was a timely reminder of why a focused commitment to principles has its advantages. As the U.S. Government rolled out the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and used tax-payer funds to prop up America's troubled banks, we had the luxury of saying, "no thanks". Other banks may have need government funds for capital and liquidity, but we didn't. We never got over-leveraged or loaded up with sub-prime mortgage loans or other toxic assets. Those decisions and our stability allowed us to stay focused on our clients and our communities, while others were trying to keep their doors open. Despite the Great Recession, we reached $3 billion in assets in 2011.
In 2016, we completed a strategic merger with California Republic Bank of Irvine, CA. The synergies of our two organizations are allowing us to offer all clients even great value and convenience throughout California.
Throughout our growth and expansion, we have maintained our commitment to the values and the culture that have defined us. Working together with our clients and within our communities, we take pride in partnerships that support, sustain and encourage innovative stewardship and economic prosperity. And that’s why, following in the footsteps of the great E.M. Downer, we continue to work hard to earn your trust, serve all of your financial needs and support our local communities.
Executive Management Team
John DeCero, President, Chief Executive Officer
Rauly Butler, Executive Vice President, Director of Retail Banking
Nathan Duda, Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer
Larry Fountain, Executive Vice President, Director of Commercial Banking
Scott Givans, Executive Vice President, Chief Credit Officer
Bill Katafias, Chief Executive Officer/CRB Auto
Deberah B. Kelley, Executive Vice President, Director of Wealth Management
Doug Lutz, Executive Vice President, Chief Lending Officer
Chris Pierce, Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer
Kristie Shields, Executive Vice President, Chief Compliance Counsel and Risk Officer
Glenn Shrader, Executive Vice President, General Counsel
Board of Directors
Carl B. Webb, Chairman
E. Michael Downer, Vice Chairman
Patricia Cochran, Director
Adrienne Crowe, Director
John DeCero, Director
Douglas Downer, Director
Gerald J. Ford, Director
Meheriar Hasan, Director
Ken Russell, Director
Jon Wilcox, Director
John DeCero, President and CEO
Carl B. Webb, Chairman
Not only does Mechanics Bank have a long and rich history of serving the community, but so do the institutions that we’ve welcomed into our family in the recent years. In an effort to honor the hard work of the individuals and groups who built those organizations we are pleased to keep their legacies alive for enjoyment. To purchase your own bit of history, we invite you to visit our heritage stores by clicking on the links below.
California Republic Bank Heritage Store
Scott Valley Bank Heritage Store
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