Mechanics Bank hires five to boost California multifamily biz

Five commercial lenders have joined the Mechanics Bank as part of the Bay Area-based expansion of its Real Estate Industries Group capabilities. Walter Aozasa joins as a senior relationship manager, and Stephen Cairns, Chris Duffek, and Tom Mitchell will serve as vice presidents and relationship managers. George McCullagh becomes senior vice president and commercial banking regional manager.

Richmond, California-based Mechanics Bank has hired five commercial lending professionals in its Real Estate Industries Group as it seeks to boost multifamily originations to half a billion dollars in 2016.

mechanics-bank-albany-500x373Walter Aozasa joins as a senior relationship manager, and Stephen Cairns, Chris Duffek, and Tom Mitchell will serve as vice presidents and relationship managers. George McCullagh becomes senior vice president and commercial banking regional manager.

Scott Givans, chief credit and risk officer at Mechanics Bank, told Real Estate Capital that the company hopes the investment in new personnel will help build up the banks’s bread-and-butter multifamily business in Southern California, targeting at least $500 million in total commercial loan originations in 2016 following a $300 million year in 2015.

“We are not playing in the hotel and more volatile asset categories,” Givans said. “The Bay Area has heated up, but we are more focused on Southern California, where it’s not quite as frothy.”

The bank’s lending “sweet spot” is the $2-5 million loan range, though deals stretch as big as $15 million, he added.

Aozasa brings 22 years of banking experience, beginning at GMAC-RFC and then tenures at U.S. Bancorp, Bank of America, Washington Mutual and First Horizon/First Tennessee Bank. Most recently, he was vice president, senior real estate industry specialist at Wells Fargo. Aozasa will work out of the bank’s office in Walnut Creek, Bay Area.

Duffek will join Aozasa in the Walnut Creek office, and he has more than 25 years of experience in real estate lending and commercial banking. He most recently served as a commercial real estate loan officer with Union Bank and has held positions at Chase, Sterling Savings, Tokai Bank, and Bank of America.

Mitchell, also assigned to the Walnut Creek office, most recently spent eight years at Wells Fargo as vice president in the Community Banking Real Estate Group, focusing on construction, bridge and permanent financing for commercial, multi-family and condominium real estate loans in the Bay Area. His more than 30 years of commercial real estate experience also include posts at Franklin Capital Investments, Riverbank Financial Group, Manulife Financial, Key Bank and Macquarie Bank, and a two-year stint at the FDIC.

Cairns is an accomplished portfolio manager who most recently was a vice present and relationship manager at Chase. He also has held posts at Rabobank and Heritage Bank, both in San Luis Obispo, California. Cairns will work out of the Sacramento office.

McCullagh has more than 30 years of experience in senior positions at Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Civic Bank of Commerce in Oakland, and First Bank in San Francisco. He will be the Commercial Banking Regional Manager in San Francisco.

Mechanics Bank, established in 1905, has more than $3.5 billion in assets as of December 31, 2015.

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