As the business sector further expands, and growing numbers of entrepreneurs seek funding for their projects, the banking industry has experienced robust growth. Sunwest, a bank for entrepreneurs headquartered in Sandy, Utah, has a 54-year tradition of providing excellent banking services to privately held corporations, family offices, small and medium-sized businesses, and real estate developers throughout the United States. Eric Hovde, CEO of Sunwest Bank, recently met with CEOViews’ team to discuss how his team of experts are helping entrepreneurs achieve their dreams.
Built to Last
In 1969, James Engbarth, the founder of Sunwest Bank and a long-time banking veteran, gathered a small group of trusted partners and opened Santiago Commercial Bank to fuel community and business development in the fast-growing Orange Country, California market. Five decades ago, there were approximately 13,500 banks in the U.S.; today the vast majority of those banks no longer exist. Sunwest is still standing and expanding due to its own entrepreneurial spirit, strong balance sheets, and long-term relationships with small and mid-sized businesses, privately held corporations, real estate investors and developers.
“Sunwest has been operating in this space for a long time, earning people’s trust and their business, and we have constantly improved and evolved to meet the needs and challenges of entrepreneurs trying to navigate today’s fast changing economic times.”
Legacy and Values
After a decade of steady growth, in 1980 Santiago Bank officially changed its name to Sunwest Bank to better reflect its growing horizons. Over the years, Sunwest transformed from a small local real estate bank into a regional bank that today operates in California, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, and Florida. Since its inception Sunwest has diligently focused on providing flexible options for entrepreneurs, building long-term relationships, and maintaining a strong balance sheet. The focus has always been on two things: helping entrepreneurs achieve their American dream and giving back to the community. Sunwest has stayed true to their ethos and loaned to qualified entrepreneurs in all economic cycles.
Banking Specialties and Services
Sunwest is best known for its commercial real estate and SBA loans but the bank also offers solar financing and HOA (Homeowners Association) and Property Management Banking Services. If an HOA or property manager’s accounting team are inundated with processing and clearing checks from multiple associations, Sunwest offers time-saving custom lockbox solutions that enable all checks and data entry to instead be processed by the bank.
Solar Financing division
To try and combat skyrocketing energy costs nationwide, Sunwest’s Solar Financing division aims to fund $200 million annually for cost-saving renewable energy projects and has a special focus on California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Massachusetts, Illinois, Texas and Florida. Nationwide, electricity costs have skyrocketed in the past decade. Sunwest offers a variety of product types and energy financing solutions that can be tailored to each client’s needs. Those options include: a Solar Loan; a Solar Lease; and a Purchase Power Agreement (PPA).
Built by Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs
Since its inception, Sunwest has diligently focused on providing flexible options for entrepreneurs. “Any bank can claim to be an entrepreneurial business bank,” Hovde said, “but what is that bank’s track record and what does their balance sheet look like? How flexible is that bank to meet the needs of entrepreneurs and help them hurdle any pain points? There is no magic formula other than being a financially disciplined bank and forming an experienced and trustworthy team that deeply understands the challenges and innovative ethos of modern-day entrepreneurs. A big part of success is not being flashy but mastering the basics. We’ve been advising entrepreneurs and meeting and understanding their needs for more than five decades.
Entrepreneur banking is in our DNA. Sunwest has been operating in this space for a long time, earning people’s trust and their business, and we have constantly improved and evolved to meet the needs and challenges of entrepreneurs trying to navigate today’s fast-changing economic times. That is Sunwest’s story.”
Forward-thinking team players
Sunwest hires experts who are team players and emphasize the power of teamwork to produce greater results. The forward-thinking and data- driven IT and software development teams consistently scour the analytics portal to design effective and efficient user experiences (UX) and user interfaces (UI) for their software and digital offerings. The leaders here never assume that the best ideas will necessarily come from senior or executive management and instead encourage team members at all levels to offer their ideas and solutions. Sunwest’s culture also promotes urgency as they are always trying to maximize productivity, efficiency and embrace the mentality of, ‘Do not put off until tomorrow what can be done today.’
Navigating the Pandemic’s Impact
The COVID-19 pandemic was a difficult time for many Americans and business owners but Sunwest continued to lend and also ramped up the software and digital offerings to accommodate PPP (Payment Protection Program) loan applications.
“We are proud to be a regional bank that ‘punches way above our weight class.’ We will continue to be at the forefront of embracing new technologies yet realizing that there is no substitute for human relationships and face-to-face interactions when it comes to providing excellent service to today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.”
Sunwest’s CEO Eric Hovde likes to say, “When they zig, we zag… when they zag, we zig.” The company does not try to emulate or imitate whatever ‘Next Big Thing’ that the rest of the crowd might be subscribing to. Sunwest is a prudent and conservative bank that maintains what is called a “Fortress Balance Sheet” and keeps nearly double the capital ratio reserves of most other banks, including the big banks. During and after the Great Recession economic crisis of 2007 to 2009, many banks tightened up. However, Sunwest Bank actually expanded around that time and in the years thereafter. The underwriting team is disciplined and continues to responsibly lend in both favorable and difficult economic times.
Sunwest expects to be one of the nation’s premier financiers of commercial solar projects and to leverage advanced technologies in a way that continues to simplify processes for entrepreneurs while also remaining much more customer-friendly than other banks. While eyeing the road ahead, Mr. Eric Hovde said, “We are proud to be a regional bank that ‘punches way above our weight class.’ We will continue to be at the forefront of embracing new technologies yet realizing that there is no substitute for human relationships and face to-face interactions when it comes to providing excellent service to today’s and tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.”