Originally published on Piedmont Patch

Visitors to the local branch of Alta Alliance Bank on Grand Avenue may have noticed that the sign by the door has changed lately. Bank executives and employees marked a recent merger with Torrey Pines Bank with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday morning.

Both San Diego-based Torrey Pines and Alta Alliance are affiliates of Western Alliance Bancorporation, an Arizona-based holding company. Western Alliance consolidated California operations back in January in order to reduce overhead and share marketing efforts. The company decided to go with the Torrey Pines name after the merger due to the affiliate’s big presence in southern California, said Margaret Lowell, vice manager of the Piedmont branch.

The merger greatly expands the amount of capital and services the bank can offer, but the branches that belonged to Oakland-grown Alta Alliance will now have to rebuild their name recognition in northern California, Lowell said.

“It was somewhat difficult because everyone knew the Alta name. Now we have to develop a brand name here.”

Down in southern California, Torrey Pines is an established brand. Started in 2003, the bank has grown to eight branches in the San Diego and Los Angeles areas, and its assets have grown from $20 million in initial capital to a reported $1.6 billion in assets, according to the bank.

Alta Alliance was founded in Oakland in 2007 and before it ever opened its doors to the public Western Alliance offered a buy-out deal.

Under the aegis of Western Alliance, Alta Alliance prospered, growing to $220 million in assets as of this year with three branches in Oakland, Piedmont, and Los Altos. Now as part of Torrey Pines, the bank is working to expand into San Francisco and Walnut Creek as well.

Alta Alliance’s success over the years can be credited to banking the “old-fashioned way”, with knowledgeable private bankers, rather than inexperienced tellers, interfacing directly with customers, said banker Dale Marie Goldan.

“With us, it’s all about relationship and people,” Goldan said.

Alta Alliance has also had a history of working with non-profits and social service providers; Torrey Pines will continue that work.

While many financial institutions have been hoarding capital and generally unwilling to lend, Torrey Pines has done the opposite, Lowell said. Rather than judging a loan application solely based on credit rating formulas and the like, she said the bank considers the viability of a project and the community benefit that could stem from financing a particular endeavor. Lowell herself is currently working with an Oregon-based solar energy company that makes photovoltaic cells.