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Luther Burbank Savings thrives on a business model that has it pay a little more, charge a little less and run a lean operation

  • Vic Trione and John Biggs at the new Luther Burbank Savings at B and Third Streets on Thursday, December 6, 2012. (Jeff Kan Lee/ The Press Democrat)

When passing by Luther Burbank Savings' new headquarters in downtown Santa Rosa, don't bother looking for the ATM kiosk.

It doesn't have one.

The rectangular building with the cherry-colored wood exterior will open for business Monday, the latest sign of growth at Sonoma County's largest locally based financial company.

Luther Burbank's expansion during the past three decades has come by taking a road less traveled. Seventy percent of its savings reside in certificates of deposit, a much higher rate than typical banks or credit unions. And for many years its loan business has concentrated on multi-family housing projects, which performed better than other real estate sectors during the housing market meltdown.

"We're not all things to all people," said Vic Trione, chairman of the board and one of the bank's three shareholders. "We don't have credit cards or car loans."

Or ATMs. Instead, the company issues debit cards and rebates the fees that its depositors are charged from other banks' cash machines around the world.

"It's really much more efficient for us to just use everyone else's ATMs," said John Biggs, Luther Burbank's president and CEO.

For its first 29 years, Luther Burbank's Santa Rosa branch sat in a nondescript building near Fourth and E streets. In time, the company expanded into two adjacent offices and eventually added branch offices elsewhere in the Bay Area and Southern California.

On Monday, its will open its new flagship branch at Third and B streets, joining Exchange Bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and five other banks that sit within a block of Old Courthouse Square, the center of downtown.

"Our signage will be the first thing people see when they come into the downtown," said Biggs.


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